The Absolute Best School Climate Blogging (This Week): Committed Teacher Edition

By Evie Blad — March 27, 2015 1 min read
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Happy Friday, Rules readers. I’d like to share some great links with you, but first let’s talk about teaching.

There’s been lots of debate this week about who should and shouldn’t teach, stoked largely by this award-winning teacher who advised young people not to join the profession. Her argument? Teachers are “so constrained right now” by common core standards and an environment of accountability, an environment that could be discouraging for creative, young people.

This reminds me of the arguments many older reporters had with me and other whippersnappers when we decided to become journalists, “We love it, but don’t do it,” they said. The news industry is changing rapidly, they told us, plus the pay is low and the work is hard. After a few years at a daily newspaper, I realized all of those things were true, and I also realized that I loved the job anyway. In fact, one of the things I enjoy the most about working in journalism is the changing environment. I get to keep learning new things and keep challenging myself.

I won’t pretend to know who would feel most fulfilled by entering the teaching profession, but I’m glad that we have no shortage of talented, innovative people in our classrooms. Consider a teacher I read about this week, who made her intensely personal experience of getting a kidney transplant into a learning experience for her students. Talk about teaching with heart (and, uh, kidneys).

Or think about the great stories of teachers who stay after school to iron out homework challenges, visit their students at home, or mediate student conflicts in constructive ways. Research shows that student-teacher relationships are crucial to engagement and a healthy school climate, so I’m sure there are many families who are thankful that thoughtful people like these are committed to working with their children. If you’re a teacher, remember that the next time you’re administering a test or attending professional development sessions on new learning standards.

Now for some links on school climate, engagement, and child well-being.

On teacher relationships and resilience...

When confronted with the fallout of childhood trauma, why do some children adapt and overcome, while others bear lifelong scars that flatten their potential? A growing body of evidence points to one common answer: Every child who winds up doing well has had at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive adult." —From the Harvard Graduate School of Education, a blog post on how supportive adult relationships help kids cope.

On teacher relationships and classroom management...

Building relationships with students—through a variety of ways—is a cornerstone of effective teaching, including classroom management. By emphasizing this practice, educators can both model that behavior for our students and demonstrate that relationship building is a critical skill for living." —Education Week blogger Larry Ferlazzo writes on effective classroom management strategies.

On teacher relationships and race...

During a recent installment of "Ask Arne," a series where educators ask U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan critical questions about school-level issues, I discussed my experience working as a teacher in New York City to create a positive school culture—one that managed discipline in an unbiased and constructive way, especially for young African-American boys. I also shared my belief that my presence as a black male educator was important for all kids, not just those who look like me." —In this commentary, David Johns, executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, writes that learning from a diverse pool of teachers helps all students succeed.

On generational understandings of race and racism...

Certainly, a world where we all loved one another would be ideal, where each person is seen as equal, where "the dream" of children of all different racial backgrounds holding hands with one another without prejudice is a reality. But Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers generally decided to ignore King's diagnosis of the problem—white supremacy— and opted to make him a poster-child for a colorblind society, in which we simply ignore construct of race altogether and pray that it will disappear on its own." —In a piece on the PBS Newshour site, Mychal Denzel Smith writes about how today's young adults understand (or misunderstand) problems of racism. How does the generation that's in classrooms today understand these issues? And how should schools address this?

On carrots and sticks...

There's a reason Carl Sagan said that 2nd graders make the best scientists—they possess a curiosity, an excitement about the natural world, and a spirit of inquiry that amazes those of us lucky enough to teach or raise them. We should be igniting and sustaining that trail-blazing spirit. So why do we distract the children in our care with sticker charts, time-outs, and treasure box troves that have no clear connection to learning?" —Award-winning teacher and Education Week blogger Justin Minkel writes about using incentives to manage behavior in schools.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.