Bearcat Brief

February 8, 2019

Notes from Niki

It seems like it has been a while since we have had a PD day. The PBIS and the PLC Leadership Committees have a good plan to guide our work together in the morning and vertical team collaboration in the afternoon. PLC will be providing breakfast as well. We will have breakfast casserole and yogurt with a variety of toppings. Please bring your own drink.

Here is a rough outline (don't hold us to the times):

8:00- 8:20- Breakfast

8:20-8:50- PBIS

8:50-9:00- Break

9:00- 9:40- PLC Work on Vision

9:40-9:55- White Elephant with Food items for snack day

10:00- 11:30- Priority Standards Work (Bring a clean copy of your Missouri Learning Standards)

11:30- 12:30- Lunch

12:30- Return to the library for vertical team guidance

Professional Reading/ Resources:

Choosing Words Wisely in Classrooms

Jennifer Gonzalez

In this Cult of Pedagogy article, Jennifer Gonzalez imagines two different strategies for

dealing with students who are goofing off in class:

- Get back to work or you’ll be staying in for recess.

- This is not like you. What’s the problem? ... How can you solve it?

Both strategies might get students back on task, but the second conveys a very different affect. “The first teacher is threatening a consequence,” says Gonzalez, “sending the message that the activity’s only real value is avoiding punishment. By contrast, the second approach affirms students’ identities as kids who normally behave pretty well, then follows that by inviting them to solve their own problem... sending the message that their classroom is a respectful place, and fostering a climate where students actively participate in their learning, rather than simply complying with a teacher’s demands.”

Drawing on ideas from Choice Words by Peter Johnston and How to Talk So Kids Can

Learn by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, Gonzalez describes several classroom scenarios and effective – and not-so-effective – ways to deal with them.

• Student self-concept – A student hands in a piece of writing where the dialogue seems

a bit flat.

The teacher might say:

- Your next step would be to revise some of the dialogue to make it sound more realistic.

- I wonder if, as a writer, you’re ready for more-advanced dialogue techniques.

The second approach sets the student up for growth, using words to shape the student’s identity as a writer.

• Academic safety – A teacher has just finished giving students directions for an

assignment. Two possible ways of following up:

- Do you have any questions?

- What questions do you have?

The first, quite common in classrooms, often gets no response; the answer would seem to be

Yes or No, and students may not have a question yet, or may think it’s safer not to ask anything

– or they may just want the teacher to move on. The second approach subtly suggests that

questions are a natural part of learning, so why not ask one.

Another scenario: during a discussion, a student makes a comment that’s slightly off-

topic. Two possible responses:

- That’s not what we’re focusing on right now; let’s stick to the topic.

- That’s an interesting idea. I’ll have to think about it some more.

The student’s reaction to the first might be embarrassment, whereas with the second, the

student might feel somewhat affirmed even as the teacher shifts back to the main topic.

• Student agency – Students have been working in groups for most of the period, and

although some groups worked well together, several didn’t finish because students were off

task or disagreed on how to complete the assignment. Two possible reactions when the class comes together at the end of the period:

- Some groups did very well today, but I was very disappointed by what I saw in other

groups. Tomorrow I need to see a big improvement.

- What problems did you come across today? How did you solve them? What will you do

differently tomorrow?

“The first option prioritizes the teacher’s feelings over the learning process,” says Gonzalez,

“and it communicates the belief that working as a group should be easy: any problems that

occurred were simply due to bad behavior.” The second says that problems are a natural part of learning, and students can fix them.

• Self-discipline – Several boys are working on a group project down the corridor and

making enough noise to be heard in a neighboring classroom. The teacher in that room has two ways of dealing with the distraction:

- Boys! Stop making all that noise! If you can’t work quietly I’m going to have to ask

your teacher to bring you back inside.

- Boys, you can be heard clear down the hall.

The first approach gives an order, conveys anger and blame, and threatens a consequence. The second simply states the facts and conveys the message, “We’re all trying to learn here and I’m sure you wouldn’t want to make that hard for others.” It’s much more likely to get the desired result and help the students consider others’ needs in the future.

Gonzalez suggests several strategies for fine-tuning these skills: a faculty study group

reading the two books mentioned above; keeping a list of useful turns of phrase; devoting a

brief segment in every staff meeting to sharing ideas on classroom communication; and using video to capture and discuss effective dialogues. “Fine-tuning your classroom talk isn’t

something that happens overnight,” she concludes, “and once you’ve begun the process, you’ll probably never feel done. But just being aware of the impact is a huge first step, and with every small tweak you make, you’ll get closer to true mastery and more satisfying, powerful teaching.”

“Let’s Give Our Teaching Language a Makeover” by Jennifer Gonzalez in The Cult of

Pedagogy, February 3, 2019,

Upcoming Events


February 11- PD Day

February 12- MS Faculty Meeting, 7:30 a.m.

February 13- Board of Education Meeting, 6:00 p.m.

February 18- Make-Up Day, school is in session

February 19- Middle School Track Parent's Meeting, 6:00 p.m. in the cafeteria

February 20- PBIS Leadership Team Meeting, 3:15 in the conference room

February 21- 7th and 8th Grade Girls' Volleyball vs. Union, 5:30

February 22- PBIS Leadership Team Training @HOMRPDC (Missy, Amy, Crystal, Niki)

February 24- Hermann Kids Travel Trivia Event @HHS, 2:00 p.m. (Note: travel is not school sponsored)

February 25- 7th and 8th Grade Girls' Volleyball vs. St. Clair, 12:30 (Day game- we probably need to talk strategy/schedule)

February 25- 7th and 8th Grade Girls' Volleyball @Washington, 5:30

February 27- HMS Student Council Meeting, 3:15

February 28- 7th and 8th Grade Girls' Volleyball vs. Owensville, 5:30


March 1- 3rd Quarter PBIS Incentive Day

March 1- FIA Dance, 7:00 (Katie supervising)

March 4- 8- National School Social Work Week

March 4-8 National School Breakfast Week

March 4- 7th and 8th Grade Girls' Volleyball @ Pacific, 5:30

March 5- P-LC Leadership Team Meeting, 3:15 in the Library

March 5- Choir Concert, 7:00 p.m.

March 8- Read In Day

March 8- 15- HMS Scholastic Book Fair

March 11- PD Day

March 12- 3rd Quarter Grades Due

March 12- 7th and 8th Grade Girls' Volleyball @ St. James, 5:30

March 13- Band Concert, 7:00 p.m.

March 14- End of 3rd Quarter

March 14- 7th and 8th Grade Girls' Volleyball vs. Bland, 5:30

March 14- School Board Meeting, 6:00

March 15- Quarter 3 Grades Due, 3:30