Saturday, October 26, 2013

e-Teacher Leadership



To reach desired outcomes for all students, all teachers must act as leaders outside of their classrooms. Complementing traditional teacher leadership roles, technology now provides new opportunities to leverage teacher leadership and influence the teaching profession. Blogging, content curation, and participation in online educator communities are three ways teachers can provide electronic teacher leadership.

Blogging
Aspiring teacher leaders sometimes are uncertain of how or with whom to share their ideas. They may lack an official leadership role, such as department chair, or can be worried about how peers will receive their ideas. Blogs can provide educators both voice and audience. Teachers who in the past would have interacted only with colleagues in their building now can reach out to educators worldwide. For example, Australian teacher Kathleen Morris has shared what she has learned in recent years about using technology in her elementary school classroom with a global audience through her blog Primary Tech. English teacher Larry Ferlazzo’s prolific blogging about English Language Learners and a wide variety of other education topics has given him a chance to provide leadership far beyond his California high school.

Content Curation
Some teachers may not see themselves as the rock-star blogger types, but technology provides leadership opportunities of all shapes and sizes. Teachers can also lead in their profession through content curation. Teacher curators wade into the ocean of information available on the Internet to collect, organize, comment, and vet content on a particular topic. Some e-teacher leaders use Pinterest, a popular service that allows users to pin web content to virtual bulletin boards, to curate content for the benefit of colleagues. For example, North Carolina elementary school teacher Laura Candler’s forty-eight boards on a variety of education topics have more than 60,000 followers. Various other tools, such as Scoop.it, and Pearltrees, provide similar opportunities for teachers to provide leadership by separating the wheat from the chaff for virtual followers.   

Online Communities
For e-teacher leaders seeking more interaction than is typical of the curator-follower relationship, various online communities create dynamic and reciprocal leadership opportunities. For example, the English Companion Ning, created by high school teacher Jim Burke, includes 260+ interest groups, some with more than 3000 members, and features many active discussion boards where teachers take informal leadership roles by offering advice, providing mentorship, and sharing resources. The micro-blogging service Twitter is another example of an online community in which many teachers are leaders. Twitter’s open nature helps teachers connect to and share expertise with both local and far-flung educators with similar interests. Educational hashtags are used to create communities within the twitterverse and many teachers take prominent roles in these spaces; it is not uncommon for teachers who are active on Twitter to have several thousand followers.

Lines between these three types of e-teacher leadership are not strict, and some teachers integrate a variety of activities into their e-leadership. For example, Georgia teacher Vicki Davis writes her Cool Cat Blog as well as being an active Twitter user with more than 60,000 followers.
Furthermore, many teachers who experience e-leadership empowerment will become more active leaders within their school buildings in traditional face-to-face ways.

Today’s social media and Web 2.0 tools have great potential to facilitate e-teacher leadership.  This type of leadership can be for all types of educators: for introverts and extroverts, for veterans to share their accumulated wisdom, and for novices to bring new ideas to the table.   By reducing constraints on communication related to time, place, and hierarchy, and helping connect and give voice, technology enables many classroom teachers to have a real impact on their colleagues and their profession.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

5 Ways to Motivate Students

Motivation is the foundation of learning. A disinterested student is unlikely to learn much, despite the most heroic of teacher efforts. Although some students may come to us conveniently pre-motivated by some combination of intrinsic and extrinsic forces, we should not expect all of our students to automatically be on board with our plans and goals. Motivating students and cultivating their internal motivation is part of our jobs. Here are five ways to motivate your students, or perhaps awake the motivation that lies within them.
1. Explain Why
99.99% of human beings are motivated ... by something(s). Too many students, however, are unmotivated by what is going on in their classrooms. Part of the problem is they sometimes may not understand the reasons for what happens at school. It is important to make students aware of why they are doing what they are doing in your classroom. Most students are forced to be in school, but as teachers we should try not rely to upon this obligation - it's not a strong motivator to actually learn. Early in my career, a mentor, Vicki Jacobs, taught me a valuable lesson. Every time I bounced an idea for a lesson or activity off of her, she would first ask me why I wanted to do things in that particular away. This question often helped me figure out if the idea was particularly worthwhile, and if it was, Vicky's follow up comment was usually a reminder to tell my students why they were doing what they were doing.  We will motivate our students if we consistently provide them with rationales for why what they're learning matters. Although a small percentage of students may ask the "why are we doing this?" question in an attempt to distract or get under the skin of their teachers, most students do honestly want to or like to know why they are being asked to do certain things. Preempt the "why?" questions by being in the habit of regularly explaining and exploring the relevance of what you are teaching. Think about yourself as a learner or at work; don't you try harder and care more when you have a clear sense of purpose? It is respectful of your students to tell them the why. And students who understand the purpose of classroom activities and who feel respected are much more likely to be motivated. Also, for students who come to you already motivated by extrinsic factors, explaining the purpose of class activities may shift them towards healthier and more sustainable intrinsic sources of motivation.
2. Ask What Motivates Them
An obvious way to motivate students that for some reason doesn't frequently occur in many schools and classrooms is to simply ask what motivates! During my career I have only encountered a handful of students who didn't seem to have some sort of activity or interest that they was highly motivating for them. One of our first tasks each school year or semester as teachers should be learning what motivates our students, and then determining how we can link our classes to these motivational forces. In addition to finding out the areas of interest that we may be able to leverage for classroom learning, it may serve to motivate some students simply that we are care enough to ask. If directly asking students what motivates them does yield helpful information, an indirect approach can be to ask students what goals they have for their lives, in both the short- and long-term. Understanding what and who our students want to be and become helps us know how best to motivate them. And connecting back to explaining the why, it's easier to argue the relevance of your content to students when you know their specific aspirations.
3. Believe in the Best Possible Version of Your Students
Part of being a teacher is dealing with students when they are not at their best. The witches' brew of hormones, peer pressure, impulsivity, occasional narcissism, and perceived invincibility results in plenty of regrettable decisions and action. However, students also have inside of them that best possible version of who they can be, and they need teachers who believe they can and will grow into that version. Teachers who treat students' mistakes as aberrations, and who convey their belief in students' potential, are highly motivating. Teachers need to try to treat poor decisions as opportunities to learn, not confirmation of immutable character flaws. Adolescents who perceive teachers' relentless optimism regarding students' potential to grow and improve will work much harder for those teachers.
4. Appeal to Students' Sense of Ethics and Justice
Many adolescents have a keen sense of the perceived injustices of the world (some of these usually perpetrated upon them by parents / teachers)! But in all seriousness, teens, who are busy trying to figure out their own value systems, are often quite interested in ethical issues and matters of justice. They like to argue about right and wrong, and discuss what could or should be done in complicated or ambiguous moral situations. Although it may be easier in some content areas than others, there are many opportunities across curricula to leverage students' interest in ethics and justice to motivate learning. Highlighting and discussing ethical dilemmas in science, history, or literature at the outset of a unit can inspire students to want to learn the content that will help them form better opinions and arguments regarding these dilemmas.
5. Celebrate What Students Do Outside of Your Class
On a less idealistic note, everybody loves a little good publicity! Keep tabs on what your students are up to outside of class. Print out local news stories on their sports exploits, or notices about upcoming theater or band performances. For students, it can be a huge deal when they make the news for  extracurricular or academic success. If you acknowledge and maybe even draw further public attention to their achievements, you will find that many of these students will be more highly motivated to work in your class. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Caine’s Arcade: Lessons for Educators


10-year old Los Angelean Caine Monroy has enjoyed more than his 15-minutes of fame thanks to a short film about the elaborate cardboard arcade he constructed in his father’s used-auto-parts shop. If you haven’t seen the video, stop reading and watch it first. Finished wiping away the tears yet? Well, the story only gets better. The internet release of Nirvan Mullick’s film in March and subsequent viral spread set in motion yet more heartwarming events. In the days immediately following the video’s release, strangers donated more than $150,000 to pay Caine’s college expenses. His story was national, and then international news within a matter of weeks, and at last count, Caine’s Arcade had more than 7 million combined Youtube and Vimeo views.
The business world quickly took an interest in Caine, with a Forbes magazine blogger predicting he will be a billionaire by age 30, and the University of Southern California’s business school inviting Caine for a speaking appearance. And indeed the arcade has turned out to be an entrepreneurial success for Caine. But this is as much an education story as it is a business story. Caine has received invitations to a summer program at MIT, and an offer from UCLA to customize an academic track. The Caine’s Arcade Facebook page includes postings from elementary school students inspired to create their own cardboard engineering projects. Another group, Caine’s Arcade School Pilot Program for Inspired Educators, is testing curriculum ideas inspired by the cardboard arcade, and already more than 100 schools in nine countries have had students participate in related project-based learning activities.
Educators can take away several messages from Caine’s story. In addition to the many uplifting elements of this tale, it should also provoke serious reflection upon the kinds of learning opportunities our schools provide to students. George Monroy’s East LA used-auto-parts shop proved fertile ground for Caine’s learning. Like many young boys, he is a fan of arcade games. The garage was a space where he could indulge this interest, and his imagination. The combination of cardboard boxes, office supplies, and free time allowed him to follow flights of fancy, to solve problems, and to tinker with and improve his creations. Caine also benefitted from adults who believed in his talents and supported his explorations, even when he did not have any customers. 
How often do students at school encounter learning opportunities like Caine has experienced? Not often enough, as standardized-testing-dominated curricula threaten to squeeze out space for individualized and uncharted pursuit of topics of interest to students. The combination of factors – space, resources, time, freedom, support, and fun – that allowed for Caine to produce his cardboard masterpiece is not a regular part of school for many students. Instead, they are bombarded with classes that do little to cultivate their instinctive desire to learn, innovate, and create.
Teachers feeling accountability pressure may believe they do not have time to help their students to imagine and explore. But powerful learning rarely happens without a motivated learner – despite teachers’ best efforts – so taking the time to cultivate students’ interests is worth it in the long run. The stale, disjointed, test-prep dominated curriculum and instruction a disappointing number of students experience has indeed left many unmotivated by school, but most all youth are motivated by something. Schools simply do too little to discover and build on the motivation which is there, even though kids who are inspired by something happening at school are probably more likely to end up passing those pesky tests.
In our schools, more emphasis must be placed upon the search for personal passion and purpose. Caine has clearly found something to which he can dedicate himself, and when students develop such a drive, it can make quite a difference in how they approach learning of all sorts. Furthermore, Caine’s passion has resulted in experiences outside of school that have broadened his perspective on the world, and have surely strengthened his general sense of self-efficacy. 
Good teachers recognize ways in which they can tap into passion to motivate students to learn in their content areas. Caine’s passion for arcades offers educators many ways to hook him into their curricula. Tasks or classes that before might have lacked clear relevance in Caine’s mind could become more relevant if connected to his excitement about and dedication to his arcade.
As a Latino male living in Los Angeles, Caine belongs to a demographic that has a 50% high school graduation rate. It’s not too far-fetched a scenario to imagine Caine, who has struggled some in the past with reading, being labeled “at-risk” and subjected to a remedial curriculum that fails to appreciate and build upon his many strengths. Given his newfound fame, the financial support for his education, and the now global appreciation for his talents, this stifling fate will probably not befall our precocious protagonist. But it is what will happen to too many of his peers. In today’s American public schools, a large proportion of administrators’ and teachers’ energy and attention is focused on a narrowed curriculum, limited types of data, standardized testing, and students’ perceived deficits. If these educators fail to also find time to provide opportunities for exploration, they run the risk of failing to develop the many potential Caine’s sitting right in front of them.
Caine’s arcade experiences have helped set him on a path to a bright future. It’s not because of knowledge that was poured into his head; it’s because of the exploration he was allowed to do, and the passion and purpose he has found. Caine is the hero of this story, but adults as well helped make it possible. Educators can contribute to the creation of similar stories if they are open to the lessons of Caine’s Arcade. Schools must be places that look to build on students’ interests and strengths, and provide opportunities for them to be curious, autonomous actors in their own learning.
In filmmaker Mullick’s mid-September follow up to Caine’s Arcade, a second short video entitled Imagine: Caine’s Arcade Goes Global, George Monroy reveals that Caine has indeed become more self-confident and is doing better in school. The film goes on to describe the work of The Imagination Foundation, started in the wake of the first Caine film, to “find, foster, and fund creativity and entrepreneurship in kids.” The Foundation has sponsored the Global Cardboard Challenge, meant to be a day of play and fundraising for its work. More than 270 cardboard events in 41 countries occurred around the world for the first challenge; hopefully such activities will cause more educators to take notice. The type of learning embodied in Caine’s story should not be limited to Saturday events away from schools. Although some might argue that Caine is an anomaly, I agree with Mullick’s opinion: “There are so many other kids like Caine out there.” Many students have the potential to surprise us, and themselves, with their creative capacities, if only our schools become more oriented towards helping them to do so.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

5 Tips for Making the Most of Competition in the Classroom

Competition can be a great way to enliven the classroom environment. But if it's not set up right, you can disengage and demotivate just as many students as you draw in. When I first began teaching, I thought about what types of competition I had enjoyed most as a student. I thought such competitive activities would be the best for my classroom. But most teachers are the types who were successful in all kinds of classroom competition. We must remember that many of our students are not like we were as students. We need to design competitive activities that will work for the greatest number of students, not just the one like us.

1. Team-based Competition
The first few competitions that I tried to set up my classroom were competitions between individuals. My co-teacher, however, gently and wisely nudged me towards setting up team competitions. When teams compete there is less risk of individuals becoming demotivated by activities which they feel create too much pressure or attention on them as individuals. With competition organized around teams, it is less likely students will feel the type of negative pressure and stress that can demotivate some students. Credit for success and for failure is spread across the group and therefore weighs less heavily on each individual student's shoulders. Group competition is also better than individualized competition because it provides the teacher another means by which to teach collaboration skills that will benefit students throughout their education and careers.

2. Interdependence in Teams
Just because you put students in groups to compete doesn't mean they will actually work together effectively as a team. Many teams will have a cocky and/or extroverted student who will be happy do most of the group's work in a competition. Teachers need to take steps to build interdependence in teams and make sure that all team members participate in the competition. One easy move is to randomize who will provide the team's answers or ideas through numbered heads. Also, when designing any group activities, I prefer group size 3 to 4 students. This size is enough to create a collective intelligence that should benefit the group, and small enough to avoid free riding by less engaged students.

3. Avoid Zero-sum Games & Juggernaut Teams
Zero-sum games require that for each winner, there is a loser. In the classroom, you risk demotivating many of your students if you only use zero-sum competitions. It is not necessary to organize pseudo-competitive self-esteem building activities in which everyone's a winner, but it is possible to design competition along what I call the Olympics model. Instead of just one winner, either individual or group, why not have at least gold, silver, and bronze winners? Also demotivating can be the situation in which one team is too much better than the others. I prefer multiple short rounds of competition because this allows more teams the potential to win and I can also quickly reorganize teams if I realize that one team is too strong for much actual competition to happen.

4. Competition between Classes
A great way to avoid some students within a class feeling like they cannot win is to set up competition between different classes. If, for example, you have two Algebra 1 classes of the same academic level, have them compete against each other in someway instead of or in addition to competitions within the class. Such competition with other classes may allow you to cultivate positive peer pressure within the class and help to avoid the potential negative social consequences of always pitting groups of students within the same class against each other. Even if you do not have two classes of the same type, maybe a colleague at your school would be open to establishing some sort of competition between similar classes. There are also websites that allow for students and classes, even in different schools or countries, to compete against each other such as the math website Manga High.

5. Celebrate Success - Wall of Fame
The payoff from competition does not have to stop at the end of the competition itself. I've used my old childhood trophies to add some fun to competitions; the gold medal winning team's name is hung on the trophy until the next time we compete. Snap pictures of winning teams and add these images to a real and/or virtual class Wall of Fame. You can share these pictures with parents who will then have an opportunity to ask their child about their shining moment at school. The pictures also provide you with a quick way to scan to see who hasn't had their turn to enjoy the limelight, and see how you can encourage them with other means.

Competition can be a double-edged sword. Be sure you set it up so that you are not simultaneously motivating one group of students and demotivating another.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Shodor + Dublin

As the Principal Investigator for the Elon Noyce Scholars Program I have access to some great supplementary professional development opportunities. I was just able to take advantage of one such opportunity after I applied for and was selected to participate in one of the Shodor Foundation's workshops for Noyce participants in Dublin,  Ireland.

After an overnight flight to Dublin during which my sleeping habits were noted by a few colleagues,
I had the chance to spend five days in Dublin with a group of other Noyce PIs and some of Shodor's staff. The opportunity to meet the other Noyce program PIs was a nice side benefit to the experience as we had chances to exchange ideas about our program's opportunities and challenges. We had an enjoyable slate of cultural activities as well. I promise none of these cultural activities involved NSF funds paying for my Guinness - we even returned today, just before St. Patrick's Day!

The meat of our program was our participation in a joint workshop at Dublin City College with European teacher educators focused on inquiry-based science education. Our European counterparts were mostly Irish, although we did have a Welshman in the mix. Shodor's Dr. Bob Panoff led the workshop, which included information on many of the helpful tools created by Shodor. The other Noyce PIs and I found the resources we learned about to be impressive, and I was tweeting and e-mailing links from the workshop back to my STEM teacher education colleagues in the US. In particular, I thought the Interactivate tools looked quite powerful. It was also beneficial to meet and collaborate with our European colleagues during our time in Ireland, and learn about different STEM and teacher education initiatives underway there.

At Elon we are fortunate because Shodor is just down the road from us in Durham, so we'll be able to bring Bob to our institution soon to share their resources with more of our faculty and teacher education students. We'll also encourage our Noyce participants to apply for future opportunities to participate in Shodor programming.
 


Friday, March 8, 2013

Five Principles for Better Student Collaboration

Principles for effective student collaboration.
Many young teachers are enthusiastic about including student collaboration in their classrooms. That is until they try it, and things don't go according to plan. It's not easy to have students work together effectively. That, however, does not mean you should give up on collaboration. Here are five principles that I find help students work more effectively together.

1.   Start Small 
Build from smaller, simpler collaborations towards larger tasks. I've seen many teachers try to take collaboration from zero to 60 in five seconds. I like having my students frequently do think-pair-share activities. Their pair conversations are on a focused topic, and because I will often call on pairs to share an idea out, there's some accountability for being on task. If you have your students in the habit of engaging in such productive pair conversations or other small cooperative tasks, moving on to larger group projects or assignments is easier for them. Frequent, little moments of collaboration build an effective foundation for larger more complicated cooperation.

2.     Socializing
When you expect students to work collaboratively on a significant assignment or task, give them an opportunity to break the ice in their group and build rapport. Adults outside of school who work together rarely get right down to work without some small chat and socializing. This is normal human social behavior. We should build it into longer collaborative tasks if we want our student groups to work effectively. A simple way to get a group started down the path to effective collaboration is a things in common activity or sheets. I have written about these in other blog posts. The basic principle is for students to quickly realize something they all have in common. Once they recognize they have these shared bonds, it is hopefully easier for them to move forward and do good work together.

3.     Let them Work
Give your students clear directions and objectives for their collaboration and then step back and let them collaborate. I've seen a lot of teachers who assign ostensibly collaborative activities to their student but then take over or interrupt so much that they might as well just lecture. If your true goal for students is to collaborate, then your role after providing them with the task at hand should typically be more to listen and monitor. If you find yourself having to insert yourself into the students' discussions and conversations, then you should probably be giving them clearer directions and more structure from the outset. When you add in your ideas, it often takes over the conversation and changes the direction of the students' work. Let the students collaborate! 
The other problem is that if you are inserting yourself too much into individual group's discussions you are probably not effectively monitoring the class as a whole. It should come as no surprise to any of us that students can wander off task when we asked them to collaborate. A little of this is inevitable. It gets worse however, when our attention is too sucked into one group. If, however, you focus on monitoring and listening, groups will more likely stay on task. After you have given the class an appropriate amount of time to collaborate, you can pull full group back together to discuss, debrief, share out. This is generally the better time for you to add in some ideas or feedback, instead of interrupting individual groups while they try to work. 

4.     Numbered heads for accountability
Whenever students collaborate, there is the potential for more extroverted students or motivated students to take over. Introverted or less motivated students may learn that they can sit back and let others do most of the work. Numbered heads is an easy way to build some accountability within groups. In my classes, if I have a group of students discussing or analyzing, I am almost always going to have them share out from their group a main idea or question. It's easy to have groups of three or four students number off, and I don't know who is what number. Then when I ask the group to share, I pick a random number to share out the group's idea. This way students become a accustomed to the expectation that everyone in their group has to understand and participate in the group's work so that they can effectively share out the group's ideas.

5.     Process & Assess student collaboration.
If you believe collaboration is important, then you should have ways in which that collaboration is processed and assessed. Often times, only the product of a groups work is assessed, but the process of their collaboration should receive attention as well. An easy way to assess collaboration is through what I call a "participation pie chart." After collaborative tasks, I give students a document that has an empty circle and a few prompts to students. They divvy up the circle as a pie chart showing who in their group contributed what percentage to the group's works. I also have the students write a few sentences explaining their pie. One variation is to have students do this anonymously and then you share their results among the group. In addition to this individual self- and peer-assessment of the group you should allow time for groups to debrief their collaboration and for the class as a whole to discuss what contributes to effective collaboration. 

Some students come to us without great collaborative skills, so it is incumbent upon us to put into place structures that will help them develop those skills. I've seen teachers give up on assigning much collaborative work because of challenges they experience, instead of figuring out the skills they need to teach their students and the scaffolding they need to put in place to make it successful. When your students are collaborating, you are often more likely to notice they are off task sometimes. However, probably just as many students are not actually with you during your lecture, even if they give the appearance of attention or compliance. Don't dump collaboration just because 100% of the kids aren't on task 100% of the time. A lot of learning can still happen even with a few tangents and distractions thrown into the mix.
 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Six tried-and-true Ways to Show You Care About Your Students

Students will want to learn more from you if they know that you care about them as people. Just because you do care about them as people doesn't mean they know you care about them! You have to make sure that your actions and words convey that caring. Here are six ways I have been successful in communicating to my students that I care about them.

1. Find Extra Minutes
One great way to show your students do you care about them and to build relationships with them take advantage of the non-academic times in the school schedule. When students come in and out of class, chat them up! Doug Lemov of Teach Like A Champion calls this "Threshold." Instead of shuffling papers or checking email, utilize the precious time between classes to ask students how they are doing. Find out the latest on their extra curricular activities.  These little moments of interaction add up to knowing a lot about the students and to them feeling that you care. Although there's often plenty to distract you as students are coming in and out of the class, your priority during these times should be the opportunity to develop relationships with your students. If you have an effective structure of using "Do Nows," or "Bellringers" or another type of warmup activity, you should be able to take care of some of that pesky paperwork while your students are engaging in those tasks.

2. Open Classroom Lunches
Another great way to buy extra minutes with your kids is to have your classroom open at lunch at least a couple days a week. Although there are times where understandably we need a break from the kids or need to focus on grading or planning, an open classroom during lunch is a powerful way to  connect with your students. Many students appreciate an escape from the chaos or drama of the lunch room. And you'd be surprised what you'll learn about your students while they are hanging around in your classroom, not doing academic work. Sometimes during these open classroom lunches I would be working on my own business and peripherally listening to their conversations. Other times I would engage more actively in conversation with them. In both situations I would learn a great deal about what my students were interested in and pop culture that is so important in their lives. Sometimes I had students who would come to my classroom for lunch who were not all-stars in my class. But during lunch I could get to know them even if perhaps in class they were not as extroverted. When I had learned more about them through their presence at lunch, I was then able to better connect classroom content to their lives and interests and then draw them out more. 

3. Attend Extracurricular Events
Although your class is obviously THE most important thing in all of your students lives, they may also be participating in some other activities at school that mean a great deal to them. So the caring teacher needs to attend some extracurricular events in your school. Now, there's only so much time in your busy schedule, so I'm not suggesting that you attend every event on the calendar. But over the course of the year, hopefully you can attend one event for most of your students who are participating in school-sanctioned teams, bands, theater productions, etc.  Be strategic, and try to attend events where more than one of your students are involved, or you know a lot of students will be in the audience with you - you'll probably get at least a little indirect credit for caring from those fellow audience members.  Also be sure your students (and maybe parents) see you are there. If you are putting in this extra time, be you sure you get full credit!

4. Wall of Fame
Even if you can't attend oodles of after school and weekend events, one alternative way to show your students that you care is to follow local media and draw attention to when your students are in the news. For students, it's a huge deal when they make the news for sporting achievements or other extracurricular or academic success. If you draw further attention to these achievements with a Wall of Fame, you will find that you have many of these students eating out of the palm of your hand!  Put up newspaper or website articles highlighting their achievements, and they will love it. Nowadays there are websites that follow many prep sports teams, so you should be able to find some clippings or printouts related to your student athletes activities. Plus, thanks to your efforts to show you care by other means, you'll know other activities to keep an eye out for related news.

5. Talk Past & Future
Another way to show you care about your students is to not just talk about what's going on currently in their lives; find ways to ask them about their pasts and their futures. This communicates that you are interested in their lives not just for the single year or semester they are in your class. A favorite assignment of mine was at the mid-year point, having my students write me a letter in which they told me something I didn't yet know about them, either about the past or their plans for the future. This assignment often elicited interesting information. Halfway into the year, they usually trusted me enough to reveal more of who they were. And it was good for me to learn things about the students that broke the mold into which I may have begun to place them. This assignment was often the key to opening the door to a more meaningful teacher-student relationship.  Although you can decide to change the particular details of such an assignment, the point is to somehow give opportunities for your students to share more of who they are with you part way through the year when they've had a chance to develop more trust.

6. Learn from Them
Another great way to show students you care about them, particularly in our increasingly diverse schools, is to have them teach you things. I had great success with this with my immigrant and refugee ELL students. It's easy to learn 10-20 words in a language, and when I would use those extra minutes I found (see #1) to be their students, they loved it. Students love the opportunity to be your teacher and also usually find your butchering of their language quite hilarious. Proverbs exist in just about every culture, and having students teach me proverbs from their cultures was another guaranteed winner. Typically, I usually did learn something interesting, and the students perceived that I cared about who they were and where they came from - I wasn't just trying to teach them English.


Remember, many students won't care about what you know unless they know you care about them.