Last week I spent three days in an all-day workshop called “Capturing Kids’ Hearts.” This workshop was paid for by my school district and was presented by the Flippen Group. Our presenter was Dr. Kate Cirillo. The goal of this training was to provide tools to educators to build more positive relationships with fellow staff members and students. It reminded me of my undergraduate work in Organizational Behavior, which was aimed at a business environment. I have a degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Organizational Behavior.
This workshop was designed for education. Principals in my district have been taking Flippen Training for the past two years, so in our building we have already utilized a few of the tools, such as the Social Contract. We did this as a staff, and most of us did it in our classrooms as well. The Social Contract serves as the framework for the behavior expectations in your class.
Build your social contract by asking four key questions, and brainstorming the words that come to mind. Ask your students these questions:
I took notes as we discussed these questions. If a word was mentioned more than once, I put a check beside it for each time it was stated. Then I entered the words we came up with into Wordle. The more times a word was entered, the bigger it was printed. These were the things that were most important to us. I printed off the Wordle and mounted it on poster board. We all signed the contract. Our Social Contract wordle is below. We had this posted on our classroom door all year, and on our class wiki.
I will do the social contract again next year, but during the first day of the workshop, I was somewhat resistant to some of the other ideas in this class. Half way through I was becoming a little burnt out, because the workshop requires an emotional investment, but by the end, I can say this is some of the best training I’ve taken in a long time. There are a number of things I will definitely be implementing in my classroom this year.
The problem with taking professional development early in the summer, is you tend to lose some of your momentum and enthusiasm by the time you actually return to your classroom. One of the reasons I’m writing a blog post about this class, is so I can reread it later to refresh my memory, and it’s a great way to make a committment to change.
The whole point of Capturing Kids’ Hearts, is that by creating a safe nurturing environment in your classroom, students will be able to succeed academically. Flip Flippen, the man behind the Flippen Group says, “If you have a child’s heart, you have his head.”
The goal is to help kids EXCEL, and that brings us to the EXCEL model, and the steps that create this environment.
The first step is to ENGAGE students. Greet each student at the door with a handshake at the beginning of each class. I have tried this and I know there is a dramatic difference in the start of our day. If I am at the door and cheerfully greet my students as they enter, we have a much more productive beginning, that often extends through the entire day.
The second step is X-PLORE. Take time to find out where students are emotionally, physically and academically. This involves taking time to explore, ask questions and actually listen to and address needs.
This class is one of those experiences that is most profitable if you are willing to do some soul searching, and be honest with yourself. I know that I am a good teacher, but I am an introvert by nature. There are steps I can take to make my classroom a warmer more welcoming environment for kids. We usually hit the ground running each morning. I need to slow down a little, welcome them into our room, and find out what’s going on with them.
Some ideas for doing this are to take three to five minutes to ask for some good news. This way kids have a chance to share important things that are going on outside the classroom. Another idea is to start out with a Joke of the day. I know some days I definitely need to lighten up a little, so I’m going to have a Joke Can. Each day we can draw a joke out. As the year goes on, the kids can help add jokes to this can.
The third step is COMMUNICATE your purpose. This is something I’m pretty good at. When I started teaching, Madeline Hunter was the “in-thing” and we have talked a lot about explicit instruction in our building. I usually communicate a focus or objective for the the things we are working on. I also like to make real world connections, so kids understand how they will use these skills in their grownup life. We always have our schedule for the day on the board, along with a pocket chart of objectives.
EMPOWER students to use the skills they’ve been taught. This is step four and I already have some goals in this area regarding technology and letting kids take on increased responsibility for their own learning. Important elements here were to provide students with affirmation, and to teach them how to provide support and affirmation for each other. A big part of empowering students is creating a safe environment for them to take risks. Communication comes into play here. We want to make our classroom a place where kids and teachers alike, are kind to one another, affirming, and friendly.
During the workshop we all had mailbags that people could slip notes into. The notes were affirming the things we appreciated about each other. I have an idea to set up a mail center and to teach kids how to write complimentary notes to one another. We already have mailboxes. So in other words, I will be modifying my rules about the writing and passing of notes, but in a good way.
The final step in this EXCEL model is the LAUNCH. We want our day to end on a powerful note, and instill enthusiasm and passion in our kids, so they leave school feeling successful and eager to return the next day. An inspirational quote, or a cheer or chant to end the day were some of the ideas. Our days often end in a rush. Things get crazy as I make homework assignments, pass out notes, and we work to straighten up the room. I really think I can impove this by just ending instruction a few minutes earlier, and taking a few moments to process our day.
So those are the steps:
E – Engage
X – X-plore
C – Communicate
E – Empower
L – Launch
Obviously there was a lot more to this three day class. These are just some of the important points. If you have an opportunity to participate in a Flippen Group workshop, I highly recommend it.
What techniques do you use to engage your students, or launch them at the end of the day? Do you have suggestions for inspirational poetry or quotes that we might use? I am looking for new ideas.