Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Flipping Office Referrals from Discipline to Praise


Are you looking for a way to celebrate students? A way to recongize positive behavior? I've got a proven idea for you (that can also be used in a virtual setting), as well as an update on a most-read post from 2013. 

While a lot has happened since I wrote the original post about Praise Referrals, and I'm no longer the administrator for a grade-level at our school, we are still finding ways to sustain a culture of high expectations for positive behavior.

The original post is below, and you can read to the end to see how we've updated the process as well as an update on the student that was highlighted in the post. 

When I meet a parent of a freshmen, they often say, "My daughter/son is ________. I hope he/she never has to come to your office!" or "I guess if you don't know him/her, that's a good thing!"

In my job as the disciplinarian for the freshmen class, most of the students I see in my office are there for negative reasons. Often, my first personal encounter with a student is because he or she has violated the code of conduct... misbehaving in class, skipping class, cheating, out of dress code, etc. 

Fortunately for me and the students, I'm not a person who enjoys negativity. I WANT to know the students... the ones who are behaving and having consistently successful days as well as those who aren't. I find ways to meet students outside my office by talking to them in the hallways, cafeteria, classrooms, etc. 

After attending a session by Bloomfield High School at the annual conference for National Association of Secondary School Principals a few weeks ago, I found a mechanism by which we (grade-level principals) could see students in our office for a positive reason: Praise Referrals. At Bloomfield HS, teachers can "write up" students for positive reasons. I immediately knew that I wanted a copy of their form so that I could bring it back to our school. I emailed one of the presenters while I was in the session and requested a copy. Once I returned to school the next Monday, he had emailed me a copy of the form. Bingo!

While we do recognize Students of the Month (2 per grade level per month), Finley Character Recognition Award winners (7 per grade level), and classroom award winners (recognized at a breakfast in the spring), I still felt like at a school of nearly 2700 students we needed a way to recognize more students for the positive things they do. Now, staff members can recognize students positively throughout the year. When staff members send us grade-level principals a praise referral, we call the student to our office, shower them with praise, and make a positive phone call home. We collect the praise referrals and put them in a box, and at the end of each month we will have a drawing for prizes such as food coupons, iTunes gift cards, etc. and announce those winners over the intercom. 

In giving praise to students, I'm reminded to praise the process rather than the person. In a recent study, it was found that children who received more "process praise" felt as thought they could improve their intelligence, and they approached challenging tasks with a more positive attitude. I have a sign in my office that states, "Smart is not something you are. Smart is something you get by working hard."  

It's been fun to see the students faces as they come to my office then how their faces change when I tell them why they're there and then when I tell them I'm going to call their parents. I think they all float out of my office when they return to class. :) 

Here's what one student posted on Twitter:


How does your school recognize students for positive reasons?


“At the end of the day, at the end of the week, at the end of my life, I want to say I contributed more than I criticized.”

― BrenĂ© Brown

Today, our school uses a different but similar system to recognize students for positive behavior. We created a Google Form that aligns with our school's PBIS acronym, PRIDE: Productive, Respectful, Involved, Determined, Eager. 

When a student displays positive behavior, a teacher or staff member fills out the form about the student. The staff member has to enter the parent's email address in the form, and there is also a place to enter other comments. 

We use an add-on (Email Notifications for Google Forms) that will automatically send an email to the parent to let them know the positive comment that was written by the staff member. 

The email notifications have been a huge hit with the parents, and being able to use this process in our current virtual / blended learning setting has been a wonderful addition to our school year. 

What happened to the student in the original post? 


He's currently pursuing a degree in education, and has been working at our school this year as a long-term sub and assistant football coach.  We are thrilled to have him back at our school, and we are excited about his choice to be an educator and coach!

"We must model the behavior we want to see, and reward the positive behavior we want repeated."    -@Jennifer_Hogan

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Sunday, August 23, 2020

Is 2020 the year we've been waiting for?

Back in June, I sent a Vox to my friend Debbie who also works at a large, public high school, and asked, "Have you listened to the recent Ali Brown podcast with Dafina Smith? We both listen to the weekly podcast and learn from the incredible women that Ali interviews each week. I shared in my Vox to Debbie, "They talk at the end of the podcast about 2020 and ask, "What if 2020 was just the year that we needed?"

By framing the question as a 'What if' question, it caught my attention, because I believe that 'What If' questions turn problems into possiblities. 

It was the first time I had heard someone talk about 2020 in a way that made me think differently about what was happening in the world, our country, our state, and our community. Believe me, there have been some scary and tragic events around COVID-19 and the pandemic. I definitely don't want to minimize the tragedies. I do want to be hopeful and also mindful that our purpose is bigger than the pandemic. 

Did you see the hopeful poem that went viral on Instagram? The writer, Leslie Dwight, begins like this: “A year so uncomfortable, so painful, so scary, so raw — that it finally forces us to grow.”

I've been thinking about the things that we've done differently this year, the lessons we're learning, and the realizations that are coming to us. I want us to come out on the other side with possibilities and not just problems. I want us to keep pursuing excellence as we face these hurdles along the way. By asking 'What If' questions, it keeps my thinking forward and not dwelling on losses, status quo, and despair.

Here's my 2020 edition of 'What If' questions. What would you add?

What if I stand up and speak for those who are weak or can't defend themselves?

What if I speak up about my faith and stand for it?

What if I pursue a career that brings me daily happiness, even if it means changing careers?

What if we celebrate the things that we do have and stop wanting for the things that we don't?

What if I connect daily with someone online who does what I do professionally for moral support, encouragement, ideas, and affirmation?

What if we finally give up doing the things that we know are not healthy for us?

What if I seek to own and enjoy my journey instead of seeking "balance"?

What if we stopped doing half of the things that we've "always done"?

What if we come out of this year better than before?

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Tuesday, August 18, 2020

How to Support Students' and Teachers' Mental Well-Being

This post is sponsored by WE Teachers, made possible by Walgreens. All opinions are my own.

One of the key reasons I started The Compelled Educator long ago was to create a space where I could share lessons learned, ideas, practices, and resources with others. My goal has always been to empower others in their journey to becoming the best version of themselves, which is why I'm so excited to share an incredible resource from WE Teachers and Walgreens with all of you!

Walgreens has partnered with WE Teachers to provide FREE resources to teachers all over the country. Times are changing, classroom needs are changing, and the free resources come at a perfect time as we are working through the chaos of a pandemic and trying to continue to meet the social, emotional, and academic needs of students. It is a crucial time to help students, ourselves, and our colleagues to feel safe.

There are seven modules from WE Teachers that serve as professional resources for trauma-informed classrooms (The modules are also available in Spanish)

  • Introduction Module
  • Mental Well Being
  • Bullying
  • A Pandemic-Informed Community
  • Poverty
  • Diversity & Inclusion
  • Youth Violence

All of the free resources can be found at https://teachershub.we.org/, where educators will find curriculum resources, online courses, online community forums, and other virtual learning opportunities. It's basically a one-stop shop to educate, support, and equip teachers!

WE Teachers TeacherHub

My interest lies with ALL of the modules, but I want to share about one in particular, the Mental Well-being Module. I fully believe that we can't help others until we help ourselves. 

Remember what the flight attendant tells you: Put on your own oxygen mask before you help others put their oxygen masks on.

The Mental Well-being Module is chock-full of good and actionable information. The first section helps to create a common understanding by sharing facts and statistics, definitions, and protective and risk factors. I love how WE Teachers has created a section that is devoted to creating a comprehensive foundation for all of us as we learn to support another person's well-being.

The next two sections are about mental health challenges and how to respond to students and nurture their well-being. A neat feature that is included is a Classroom Check-Up Tool. It's a chart that shares signs of normal development in children ages 5 to 18 and provides suggestions on how to support students at the different age levels. I also appreciated the section about social media and well-being. While there are many positive things that can come out of social media, it can also be a place that can cause problems for our youth and even be dangerous for them and their well-being.

The last section (before Resources) is titled, The Importance of Teacher Mental Well-Being. This is a section that I was greatly interested in, and it provided a ton of self-care tips and resources to help us help ourselves during trying times. 

This year is going to be like no other year in my 25+ years in education. I want to be ready and equipped for ALL of the curve balls, and I know how important it will be for me to be extra prepared to support our students and staff and their well-being during the pandemic. WE Teachers, in partnership with Walgreens, has created some phenomenal resources for us as educators. I will be using and sharing the modules at my school this year, and I encourage all educators to get all 7 modules at the WE Teachers Hub

In addition to providing a learning hub, WE Teachers also recognizes teachers that go above and beyond! The WE Teachers Award is a $500 Walgreens gift card. (How could you use $500 for your class needs??) You can nominate yourself or someone else who deserves it. 

Learn more and start the application or nomination process for teachers who go above and beyond

Direct application link

Direct nomination link

Note: The 2020-2021 application process is opening as of July 1st and awards are granted on a rolling basis throughout the year.

Use the links above to nominate yourself or someone else!

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Friday, March 20, 2020

How twitter can serve as a COVID-19 school resource

create a hashtag on twitter by thecompellededucator.com

How can twitter serve as a COVID-19 school resource?

With the "new normal" that we are all facing and trying to navigate during the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantines, this post has a sense of urgency about it unlike anything we've ever faced. 

We're all looking for ways to connect with our school communities and decide which method is most effective. When I'm asked, "Should we use twitter, email, Instagram, or Facebook?"  I just say, "Yes." 

If you've got people who can assist with the different methods of outreach, it's time to deputize folks to assist in staying virtually connected when we can't physically connect. Use as many modes of communication that you can effectively manage. 

This post focuses on connecting via twitter. One of the reasons I love twitter and am a huge fan is because of the number of educators on the platform. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been so many educators who have shared resources, ideas, support, and even funny memes to lighten the load. We are truly better together!

create a hashtag on twitter by thecompellededucator.com

This blog post is about a game-changer that every school leader who uses social media should know about. If you are a school leader, keep reading, and use the ideas in this post. If you're not a school leader, keep reading and share this post with your school leader. AND, offer to help. 

In my digital workbook, Telling your School's Story on Twitter, I go into detail about creating a school hashtag along with other ideas for how and when to tweet, ideas for creating graphics, along with connecting the school with the community. 

Not having and using a school hashtag is a missed opportunity.

It's something I notice when I'm connecting on twitter... I see a tweet about an event in a school somewhere, a celebration of students or staff... and there's no hashtag. Not using a school hashtag is a missed opportunity for connection.

Twitter as a search engine

School hashtags allow stakeholders to “find” tweets about your school by doing a search for your hashtag. They can click on the hashtag in the tweet and see all of the tweets containing that specific hashtag. Imagine what it would be like if parents, teachers, students, alumni, and other stakeholders all used the same hashtag when tweeting about the awesome things happening in a school's community. It's a powerful way to get a "big picture" about a school as well as keep parents informed about successes that may not make it to the newspaper... things like a friendly librarian who makes kids want to request a book and drive through the check-out line, a lunchroom worker who serves meals and knows everyone by name, a lesson online that results in excellent problem-solving practice.... I'm sure you can think of many more examples!

How to create your school's hashtag

There's no "rule" about what you can use or not use for a school hashtag. Keep it pretty short in length, because the characters in the hashtag take up some of the characters you can put in your tweet. Examples include #(schoolname)pride, #go(mascot), or #(schoolinitials)(mascot). This would look like #hixsonpride, #gospartans, #LHSCowboys. For other ideas, check out different school leaders to see what kind of hashtag they use to promote their schools. 

Before deciding on what you will claim as your school hashtag, check to make sure it's not already being used. You can do a search on twitter with the potential hashtag, and if it's not being used or was used only a few times a few years ago, GO FOR IT! 

Here are 4 places to share your school hashtag:
  • School marquee
  • In your email signature
  • In your twitter profile
  • In your school's digital newsletter

Do you use this simple, yet effective, method of telling your school's story on twitter? I would love for you to share this post and tag it with YOUR school's hashtag!