I am a CHAMPION…most days!

By Alissa Hansen

As the end of the year is in sight, I am beginning to reflect on what has been a rewarding, albeit challenging, school year. We have officially completed our persuasive research unit and have now moved on to reading (The Pigman in English I and The Odyssey in Honors). I think this has restored some of that “joy factor” that Lemov discusses in chapter 12 too, so it has allowed us (both students and myself) to be reinvigorated once again. English I is also working on an independent reading project where students get to read a novel of their choosing and complete a creative project to share with the class. Honors is starting the Greek mythology unit by completing a mini-research project on a god/goddess in preparation for reading the epic poem. After working hard on an extensive research project in all classes, this is work that I notice seems to be “ punctuated regularly by moments of exultation and joy” (442). However, we are also inching our way closer to the end of the school year and it is getting nicer outside, so it is absolutely imperative to keep consistent with high academic and behavioral expectations. I know we all work hard to do this day in and day out, but here are a few things that I need to remind myself with as the year comes to a close.

Without Apology

With freshmen, this is an easy hole to fall down because they often like to lead the conversation down a path that tricks you into apologizing for content or work assigned. And sometimes I have caught myself falling into this trap. I need to daily emphasize the importance, urgency and scholarly work that needs to get accomplished more often. I need to remind students that what we are studying is “an important building block for things you do throughout your life as a student” and as a lifelong learner (123). I think it is easy at times to assume students don’t appreciate what we are teaching, especially when it requires work and time. I have one class in particular that is extremely negative and pretty consistent about complaining about everything that we do in class, reading or writing. Lemov says it beautifully when he states, “Our job is to find a way to make what we teach engaging and never to assume that students can’t appreciate what not instantly familiar or does not egregiously pander to them” (123). This is ALWAYS my goal, but it does get tough amidst negativity. Lemov gives some great alternatives to an apology–like reminding students that what we are doing will help them succeed, that the content is great because it is challenging, or that the scholarly work they are carrying out is what college students do and sometimes even struggle with and that’s what makes it cool.

Least Invasive Intervention

I do not have many behavioral issues in class for whatever reason, but I do find that I need to get freshmen on task and some students in particular, more often than not. I am a pretty blunt, straight-forward person, but I do know that the most effective way to manage a class is through interventions that are the least invasive. One area that I need to work on is the positive group correction (398). Using more “I need to see everyone writing” while redirecting individual students who need it at the same time. Sometimes I can find myself in a rut if I have three-five students who are off task and I will stop the entire class to address them. This wastes time, so remembering for those quick positive reminders that allow students to reflect and then getting back to teaching will be the best way to get the most accomplished, which also doesn’t allow for students to break down the lesson due to their behaviors.

Firm Calm Finesse

At this point, I have caught onto the behaviors that are the most problematic and from which students, as well as have come to know triggers for students and have made contacts home, with the counselor, and in some cases, with the principal. I think I have done a pretty good job of catching behaviors early (403). However, one thing that Lemov says that stands out to me is “if you’re mad, you’ve waited to long” (403). I have definitely found myself approaching a situation angrily and this has a tendency to affect the entire day and stir up emotions. So, some tactics that I need to refocus my attention and energy on are: valuing purpose over power (“I need you participating like a scholar” instead of “When I ask you to work, you need to work” or “I am watching you get nothing done”), saying thank you and please more often, and using universal language (team sport, “We need you with us”) (404).

The Art of Consequence

  • Knowing when to give a consequence or give a correction is another important item that I need to keep better track of. Sometimes I get so frustrated by a student’s consistent off-task or disruptive behavior that I will call them out in class. I know this is not the most effective method, but when I have done every possible  method to get them productive, it can be very aggravating. Depersonalizing is a goal that I am doing more often (conferences in the hall work wonders or after school or class). I have even thought about having a student write a reflection on their behavior if it is something habitual. Lemov states “emotions distract students from  reflecting on the behavior that resulted in the consequence” and this is something very important to remember if you want students to work hard for you (408).

When trying to determine whether it is a consequence or a correction that is needed, I plan to follow this:

  • If a student is “persistently” off task= consequence, unless the being off task is due to misunderstanding;
  • If a student’s behavior doesn’t disrupt others= correction, if it does= consequence;
  • If a student is testing your patience and your expectations consistently= consequence, as tolerance of this behavior will strip you of your authority;
  • Giving a correction first and then a consequence poses as a good solution as well.
  • Correcting first allows the student to reflect and remediate behavior and the consequence reminds them sharply not to do it again. As Lemov states, giving a consequence first could cause the student to react emotionally and therefore shutdown or even more resistant (411).

That’s all folks…


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About alissahansen

This is my third year in the Davenport Community School District, my second year as a freshmen academy English teacher and my sixth year in the teaching profession. Before entering the field of teaching, I earned my bachelor's degree in journalism and anthropology from The University of Iowa, where I was also an arts and entertainment reporter for The Daily Iowan. From this experience, I became editor and publisher of local (Johnson County) arts and culture magazine, Little Village. I later entered the Masters in the Art of Teaching program at the University of Iowa and graduated with my M.A.T. in English education with endorsements in reading and journalism. I worked for three years at Clear Creek Amana High School in Tiffin, Iowa as the yearbook adviser, and a reading and English teacher. Teaching is my love, and I cannot imagine doing anything else in the world, except for becoming a parent! My husband, Wade, and I had our first son, Rhys Michel, in 2012. He is growing fast and it is a pleasure to watch him bloom before our very eyes! We are both enjoying the joys of parenthood; it keeps us plenty busy, especially now that Rhys is a full-blown three-year-old who loves to dance, especially when it's Bruno Mars or Pharrell, swim, play with cars, and read books. He is a spunky guy who loves to be on the go! We had our second son, Ellis Lee, in 2014 and we are amazed at how fast he has grown already. He is 1 and is quickly settling into his funny personality. He loves watching his older brother and mimicking everything he does as well as watching "The Little Einsteins" and dancing to the theme song. I am also due at the end of April with our first girl.

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