Archive for the ‘Diversity Teaching’ Category

Five Simple Steps to Making That Call Home to Parents

Photo Credit by Inno'vision

Far too often we rely on negative passed experiences to carry us through current situations and circumstances needing a different set of rules to play by. But, how do we get past a bad experience to create something new and exciting? How do we find gratification in something like calling parents to narc on a child that has is suspected to have stolen a purse or believed to be selling prescription meds from the parent’s supply cabinet? There’s a simple way – Don’t wait until you need to call before you have to call.

K – 12 Education: Stressed Out Series 6.3

Remember how Ms. Patroness’ emotional state changed after describing the humanitarian project her students were involved with one semester and how she felt great about making all those calls to coordinate the event. She was able to identify tremendous states of excitement in knowing the parent would welcome her calls. Ms. Patroness also believed she was not only leading a great campaign, but she was experiencing a measurable highlight in her career. I’m going to share how she pulled it off in five simple steps.

Step 1. Don’t wait to the last minute to call a parent. This is wrong on so many fronts [no pun intended]. Think about how you feel when a representative from the company you made your last purchase calls to congratulate you and hear from you how you rate the experience. You don’t have to be a school of choice to find value in servicing your customers this way.

Step 2. Create some sort of ongoing need to connect with your parents. In a recent blog I recommended taking camera phone pics of chalkboard assignments and sending it to your student’s parents by picture mail or Twitpic [] so that they can stay on top of things quickly (see Step 2 of 7 Steps to Becoming an Effective Teacher). This works especially well for parents with shared custody.

Step 3. Make it a rule to contact each parent on your roster at least twice with heart felt positive reports before having to rat a student out. Parents that get regular negative calls from school personnel are a little punchy when seeing the call come in on caller ID. By establishing a genuine service connection with parents, based on trust and credibility, you can easily recruit them as part of your classroom management and support team member for special events.

Step 4. Call your parents when you’re thinking of them. If you pass a location or reminded of a family event, follow up with a quick text or email particularly if you anticipate having to contact them about their child in the near future. It will soften the blow for the next time you call with bad news to report.

Step 5. When you need to clobber that little darling with a phone call home to his parents, spank his little behind. Only this time the stage has been set to operate as a genuine family ally instead of, “that guy.” The time needed to establish trust may vary between semesters and families, but staying focused on the goal to make partnerships that matter will give you the confidence to stick with it until you succeed.

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.


Why is it so difficult to contact my student’s parents?

Photo Credit by marcalandavis.

Have you reached a point in your career where identifying what’s most important for you to help your specific group of students to achieve individual academic success based on their particular circumstances and skill sets, is what matters most?

K – 12 Education: Stressed Out Series 6.2

Identifying what’s most important or prioritizing what gets your attention is a huge undertaking to address in a blog. I’ll approach the process of determining importance by taking on different aspects of training sessions teachers have struggled with over the years.

One repeated theme of importance for educators is parental involvement. Many schools across the country have engaged parents at the kitchen table during homework, actively participating in PTA, and volunteering on fieldtrips. Not to be unrecognized, in many other schools across America, is a lack of parent presence at sporting events and parent teacher conferences.

Family Overlaod

They are often working more than one job that takes them away from peak academic hours and still fall short trying to fund school projects. Transportation maybe an overwhelming challenge when having to visit several schools at the same time.

These are genuinely complex circumstances needing simple solutions where possible. That’s one of the reasons I addressed measurable goals (V2.5, p. 32) in my Guide to Having Your Best Year Teaching With Smart K12 Methods. You’re are going to have to take bolder leadership measures to inspire all parents and guardians to make radical changes in how they get involved with what is most important for your student’s success.

Fearing Paternal Hostility

A teacher in one of my training sessions said she found it extremely difficult to connect with her student’s parents. I asked, Ms. Patroness, if she could explain how it felt when she knew she was going to have contact a parent? She said she could imagine the parents getting hostile and paternally protective with their child. This was probably created out of a past experience that anchored to her memory in a negative way. So, I asked if there was ever a time when she had a great experience calling a parent?

Almost immediately Ms. Patroness perked up and began telling me stories of when her class was chosen to be a part of a nationally televised news piece showcasing a humanitarian project her students were involved with one semester. And how there was an exchange of phone calls between her and the kid’s parents for permission slips, coordinating volunteer support groups, and designating drivers. Now all we had to do was connect those feelings [felt at that time] to picking up the phone and calling parents for a parent-teacher conference. (To be continued)

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.

Are you stressed from an out of control classroom?

Photo Credit by Jim Sneddon

The process of building a personal system that consistently produces student achievement may take a minute to manufacture, but for the sake of reducing stress, getting the boss off our back, or saving our weekends for a ‘life’, we’re in a constant search for better ways to make the process less stressful. In short we are simply too invested with all the other things of our life to afford not having students learning. We need to be leaders more than ever before.

K – 12 Education: Stressed Out Series 6.0

For now, lets take a look at how you might go through the process of regaining an out of control classroom. However, before doing that, may I ask you a question? What exactly would you call out of control? This is important, because, defining control will determine the process of establishing a classroom community with limited conflicts.

Last year I worked with a teacher that described her out of control classroom as the group that she wasn’t able to keep from repeatedly getting out of their seats, talking with each other during her lessons, and texting when they were suppose to be working. Does any of that sound familiar?

This teacher, lets call her Ms. Ann, was feeling the pressures of fitting into the title of being highly qualified and was associating low student achievement with her inability to limit distractions. Once we were able to identify her stressors we looked at two things. First, was if these occurrences alone caused students to fail. Secondly, was it causing her to loose focus of the learning process?

What we discovered was that her true source of stress with students getting out of their seats was that the noise of the pencil sharpener (she was fortunate to have one that worked) threw off her concentration. It throws mine off to, but I also believe pencil sharpening noise is probably more of a distraction for me coming from a culture of quiet libraries and neat rows of orderly students than it is discomforting for my 21st century learners.

You see by separating her perception of how learning should go down, from how the learner learns best, helped us to enhance her quality as a teacher. Once we clearly identified Ms. Ann’s problems, we were able to create actions in her daily process of managing her management verses managing her classroom’s behaviors.

What actions do you take for reducing the loss of valuable learning time?

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.

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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.

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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.

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.

Diversity Teaching | Cultural Understanding

Photo Credit by CGehlen

Photo Credit by CGehlen

“If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.” John Fitzgerald Kennedy

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Does It Make Sense?

Many of the post I write on Asphalt Check are inspired from ideas of being able to solve classroom management problems in teaching environments that seem to work against all efforts to achieve. You simply want each student on your roster to make the grade and have fun doing it. Right?

The reality of teaching a diverse student body is that you have to genuinely believe in each student being able to achieve the American Dream. Believing in your students, or someone else’s for that matter, requires having an on going sense of cultural understanding.

Understanding Your Students

Being able to solve your classroom management problems could very well begin with understanding your student’s culture. It doesn’t matter if he or she ever reaches the world’s standards of success after graduating from your class. What’s most important for your success is having high expectations and belief systems that support your goal to provide an undeniable service.

Whose Pie Is It?

Even if we began our careers believing we could make a difference in the lives of students that are often over looked, time evolves and rigor sets in. Then we stop dreaming change is possible and we start buying into the idea of it being easier to blame administration, parents, students, and whomever else we can latch onto for comfort. Think of your students as people in a struggle to bite into their slice of American Pie that might just be graham cracker crusted key lime or mango instead of apple.

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.