Archive for November, 2009

A smile and wave can lead to big connections

Photo credit by Pink Sherbet

The other day I found myself in unfamiliar territory. Sort of an awkward situation of not knowing anyone from the environment nor was I sure if I was even where I was suppose to be. The reality of it all could have worked against me had I chose to be taken over by fear of the unknown.

Or the reality of my perception could afford me confidence to look at the situation through eyes that saw things for what they were worth. Opportunity. Now you maybe thinking, “Was this guy in some sort of potentially violent situation?” Not at all, I was simply picking up a set of keys for a facility that was being rented in a city I wasn’t familiar with from people that would recognize me from another neighborhood than theirs.

The scenario is common in all sorts of circumstances, but its paying attention to what’s going on around you that can produce the results you need from potentially stressful situations. I was on a schedule to find the place in a certain time frame, my Blackberry battery had died, and the location wasn’t exactly where I was told it would be.

Would you introduce me to him?

Driving to the back of the building I noticed a young girl playing with a rather large dog. Approaching her put a welcoming smile on her face as she began to waive and apparently signal me to a parking spot.

As I got out of the car she became aware of her surroundings and was less warm than before. My reaction was to recognize this and see the little kid as a connection to the person I was meeting. Careful not to spook her (or the rather big dog) making any inappropriate movements, I introduced myself and took a gamble of asking if her dad was there? With a smile I asked little Becky to introduce me to him since we had already met each other. I asked Becky’s dad if he was affiliated with the adjoining rental hall. He said he was a friend with Karl, but that Karl was a business partner with Tulane who rented out the reception hall upstairs.

While waiting for Karl to finish with a customer, Becky’s dad explained that while in Germany he had developed a taste for the variety of brews and upon returning to the US hooked up with Karl to start a hops and barley supply business where they offered products for brewing and distillery. My Grandfather fermented homemade wines and I had also toured Germany while serving in the Marines so the conversation took off from there.

The Red Salamander and 7 Islands Meeting and Reception Hall

Karl took me up stairs to meet his business partner Tulane and there I had been connected with a wonderful group of people that began with an introduction from a kid that smiled and waived. Becky suspected I was in an unfamiliar place yet she drew on her confidence from simply being aware of what was going on around her. I was aware of my surroundings and drew on the power of a wave and a smile as a trustworthy act that could lead to big connections and it did. Paying attention to your surroundings and knowing your limits could give you the confidence needed to solve problems without stressing over them.

P.S. If you have been inspired from this article please consider leaving a comment and subscribing to the RSS feed (top right column) to have future post delivered to your feed reader. Please send your friends to to connect with me or @laroncarter on Twitter.


Create a floor plan that flows from your classroom door .

Photo Credit by LizMarie

Welcoming students to a successful and warmly inviting classroom begins with you designing a successful floor plan. You can model great floor plans from mentor teachers that mirror comfortable learning environments, but playing around with various concepts over time is the best way to hone your skills. Here are a few suggestions toward creating a floor plan that flows from your classroom door.

Stressed Out K – 12 Education Series 5.1

Step 1
Remove any obstructive furniture from your entrance. Teachers have the tendency to think that creating a barrier between the hub of classroom activity and the entrance will block out disturbances. Actually entering a blocked classroom entrance from a long and opened hallway or outdoor exit instantly distorts the flow of positive energy. Think of your students being able to finally take deep comforting breaths, from the story told about them in your hallway display to the minute they enter their classroom.

Step 2
Set the stage for routines by thinking about where your station for opening instruction will be located. This station should include an easy way for students to figure out all homework assignments from previous weeks without having to interrupt you from greeting students, passing out graded assignments, or taking attendance. Consider placing the homework station as far away from the entrance as possible so that the flow of movement isn’t broken or bottlenecked [3 ring binders with tabs and pockets work nicely].

Step 3
Supplies for specific task should be a separated by itself whenever possible to prevent congestion near the homework station. Also try to have the placement of those items linear from left to right or visa versa so that students become familiar with assembling routines that reduce time needed to get in and back to their work stations.

Step 4
Assign students to small teams of four and title job responsibilities for efficiency. Some titles to consider are: Project Manager or Timekeeper, Team Coordinator, Distribution Manager, and Team Instructor. You can define the job descriptions as needed the important thing is that students of all ages thrive on opportunities to be responsible and praised for accountability. The key idea in effective floor planning here is to have the Distributor of the group collect and pass out assignments from another area of the classroom to avoid everyone congregating.

Step 5
Having a specific chalkboard or overhead for assignments and daily instructions may sound elementary but it works. Take a photo of an assignment on the board, and a close up of all the stations to use in your substitute teaching notes is sweet. The same picture can be quickly sent to parents by picture mail or Twitpic [] so that they are always on top of things easily (see Step 2 of 7 Steps to Becoming an Effective Teacher).

P.S. If you have been inspired from this article please consider leaving a comment and subscribing to the RSS feed (top right column) to have future post delivered to your feed reader. Please send your friends to to connect with me or @laroncarter on Twitter.

Set the Stage for Telling a Story


Photo Credit by Tanjila

Some of the most productive learning environments are those that invite a sense of wonder and imagination. Setting the stage for telling your teaching and learning methods can be initiated right outside the classroom door. Consider frequently rotating student art expressions of various learning processes as part of your hallway Welcome statement. Showcasing the good in students verses only the good students might be the cause of changed behaviors in all your students.

Stressed Out K – 12 Education Series 5.0

Shortly after earning my certification in special education I accepted an assignment at an inner city elementary school. The administrator wanted to hire an educator that not only represented the student’s voice but also would be the voice of under represented students.

Welcome to Success

After studying a few of the student’s background records I learned that a group of three biological brothers genuinely needed a dose of affirmation from an environment that worked overtime spotlighting their failures.

One day I got the bright idea to catch them doing something right even if it was partial. This is how I showcased their success.

Right outside our classroom door I designed cutout-laminated mats in bright colors of 11 X 17 construction paper.

One side of the mat had a 4 X 6 cutout for the student’s picture. Above it was a cutout with enough room for the students name and a great adjective to describe what I saw the student becoming.

The other side of the mat had a cutout approximately 6 X 9 to showcase that student’s work, which had been digitally photographed then reduced or enlarged to fit the space in a professionally displayed presentation.

By cutting out the laminated construction paper you are able to rotate pictures and artwork for each of your students. If at all possible line the corridor entrance to your classroom with spotlights of the students that maybe relying on you to beam them up.

P.S. If you have been inspired from this article please consider leaving a comment and subscribing to the RSS feed (top right column) to have future post delivered to your feed reader. Please send your friends to to connect with me or @laroncarter on Twitter.

They’re Not Hearing You


Photo Credit by Flattop341

Long before I answered the call to teach I had a love affair with business and the spirit of entrepreneurialism. But after becoming a certified K – 12 special education teacher (for some reason that title doesn’t sound normal) I took on the challenge of connecting sales and marketing models to the art of teaching.

Can’t top this

One of the many coaches I’ve studied under over the years is marketing giant Seth Godin. Last week he blog posted the idea that getting someone to switch because you offer more of what they were looking for when they chose the one they have now is essentially impossible.

What are you selling?
If your students haven’t bought into a program that isn’t working, what makes you believe they want to buy more of it just because you’re serving bigger portions?

Think importance
For this up coming semester think of ways to deliver lessons to your students that brings something to the chalkboard existing teaching methods don’t think is important when trying to convert one positive behavior into multiple successful behavioral patterns.

P.S. If you have been inspired from this article please consider leaving a comment and subscribing to the RSS feed (top right column) to have future post delivered to your feed reader. Please send your friends to to connect with me or @laroncarter on Twitter.

Cultural Understanding Is Love Expressed Through Spotlighting Its Art

st williams elementary

Photo Credit by Chicago 2016 Photos

Stressed Out K – 12 Education Series 4.2

Solving classroom cultural issues are often mistaken for a need to understand race matters. Race does matter in being able to better understand your students, but does not fully help in understanding culture. Race and culture are connected, but can point in different directions, wrapping around an experience at one end and joining back together on the other side.

Embracing a student’s culture helps them to embrace learning.

Back in undergrad I remember reading a professor’s research article that was inspired by her son’s experience as an elementary student. This little boy, we’ll call Tommy, stormed out of school and walked home one day following his first grade teacher’s explanation of a holiday thematic unit. Acting out in this way wasn’t unusual for the little guy as the story was told. The article depicted him having a strong personality that was often misunderstood in school.

If you can’t explain something you may not understand the person holding it?

Students bring their ethnicity with them to school every day. An effective teacher will find ways to embrace her student’s ethnicity in as much of the lesson planning as possible without losing integrity for achieving the overall mission. Tommy’s teacher accomplished that by adopting her student’s culture into classroom art design and lesson planning not just as it related to activities, but as a respect for the community’s culture.

An engaged student equals reduced classroom management issues.

The article reported her student’s curiously engaged subjects with a passion for learning new things after planning the community’s culture into the lessons. Tommy and the other students needed to be affirmed through their cultural identity. Culture looks through a set of lenses that blurs racial characteristics and brings shared beliefs into focus. Understanding culture guides effective teachers to explain concepts and ideas through the eyes of the students, from their world, where they live. Now, let learning begin.

P.S. If you have been inspired from this article please consider leaving a comment and subscribing to the RSS feed (top right column) to have future post delivered to your feed reader. Please send your friends to to connect with me or @laroncarter on Twitter.

Where to Go When All Else Has Failed to Produce the Answers You Need?


Photo Credit by Mudeth

When your past experiences aren’t deep enough to provide rules for engaging tough problems you may search Google, Wikipedia, or eHow. But even robust engine optimization and one hundred twenty three comments in the best forums can fail to produce the answers needed to resolve a personal hardship. What answer will matter in an untimely death of a loved one taken home before you got a chance to reconcile your differences?

Some problems simply leave us dumb founded.
Maybe your issue is rapt in the inappropriate behaviors of a child that everything touched seems to blowup in his face. What do you do if your faith and everyone praying for you isn’t enough to reverse the chronic condition of disease that has you feeling like you have nothing left to give? Countless spouses and their children are emotionally traumatized in the aftermath of a divorce gone wild. So, what does a respected mentor say that brings resolve to a problem that leaves you both dumb founded and chanting, “I don’t know what I’d do,” as a better response than unwelcome wisdom?

My grandmother knew what to do.
Nana would often remind me, “Whenever you have looked everywhere in vein to figure something out, you must turn to the God in you for a glory that will out wit, out live, and out shine your problems, baby”. There you will find the answers patiently waiting for you to show up. Always in there, under all the mind chatter banging off the walls of your intellect, wondering how much longer you are going to kick it around like a rejected rock.

Just be the answer.
Now reading this at a glance might have you wondering, Carter, is that all you have to say about where to go when all else fails to give me the answer I need? Yep, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s Run DMC would say, “It’s like that, and that’s the way it – is.” Word. Try getting quiet, separate from everyone, stop all the noise and meditate from within so you can hear how to be. . . one with the Answer. It doesn’t get any more basic than that.

P.S. If you have been inspired from this article please consider leaving a comment and subscribing to the RSS feed (top right column) to have future post delivered to your feed reader. Please send your friends to to connect with me or @laroncarter on Twitter.