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Richard Conley

I have been in public school education for 21 years as both teacher and administrator. Every year I learn to become a better teacher and student. The student part is essential for growth since the dynamics are ever changing in the classroom and the teacher must find out what's working and what isn't. The kids will let you know. Here are some suggestions that I have had much success with.

1.Provide the students with 3x5 index cards on day 1. Ask them to write their full name and class period, then the following (arbitrary but a good cross section) they learn best (provide examples), specific goal for the class, role model, how I can help them learn, favorite food, where they would travel with a free airline ticket. Collect the cards and separate. Look over the cards before your classes start as much as you can...or after school. You will learn important information about your student. That directly affects student motivation.

2.Write a quote from a poem, play, movie, etc. on the board at least once a week and ask the kids in pairs to provide feedback. Just do it for a few minutes. Powerful stuff...i.e.Is the bow, arrow, and feathers an example of nature or culture?

3.Get either reaction cards or sheets from the students after each unit (or at least twice a semester.) Ask them what they liked about the unit, suggestions for improvement, and personal comments. Look those over. They will make your job as a teacher so much easier.

Once the students experience the above they will know that you are personally invested in their learning. That's trust..with trust comes an easier learning environment.

Last point......the 'my kids' syndrome, or 'those kids,' etc. is symptomatic of a poor perspective which may adversely affect the learning environment. The toughest kids want to be loved and in the proper motivating setting, want to learn. It's up to an enlightened teacher to set up a positive, loving, caring (and tough) classroom ambience. Who do you think fills out the most discipline referral forms? Answer: The teachers with the least trust or poorer connections with the students. Excellent teachers know how to take care of their own 'business' in house. It takes time but it works.

John Harris Loflin


Re: parents view/critique Indy's Parent Power Talking Points at and get back to me.

Jennifer Job

This makes excellent points, especially about the impact of language. It is why Mary Ruth Coleman began to identify kids "at potential" instead of "at risk" when researching giftedness in underrepresented populations.

However, there needs to be some middle ground between "we need tools to deal with *those* kids" and "kids are kids! Just be a good teacher," precisely because 80+% of teachers are middle class and white. They are used to a very middle class schooling paradigm, and working in urban schools presents unique challenges they need to prepare for. I think the reflection piece is a start, but not the entire ballgame. I guess my question is, how do we do so without treating urban kids like a defective population?

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