What Makes “THAT Child” Behave That Way?

Funny young school student balancing a pencil on his noseBy Sabrina Bong – As I was scrolling through Facebook recently, I stumbled across a website that one of my friends had shared.

The website was a blog from a teacher out in Canada, but her message rings true throughout every country. It was so inspiring that I immediately knew that it was something I had to share with everyone here. Even though I am not a teacher, the feelings are the same for me as a counselor.

In this open letter from Amy Murray, she writes about “THAT child.” I’m sure all of us in the education field thought of someone right when they read that statement. We all have a student (or more than a few students) that may require a little extra love and attention, someone who may simultaneously grate on our nerves and melt our hearts. They may also be the student who causes chaos in every single classroom he or she touches.

But Amy begs people – particularly parents – not to make snap decisions about “THAT child.” She asks them to show patience and realize that she cannot share everything about “THAT child” with them, even though it may answer a lot of questions. She mentions that sometimes, “THAT child” is being abused, that he may be hungry and cranky because of allergy tests, or that she may be looking for attention because she is living with grandma (who may be a potential alcoholic.) She reminds each of us that these children are all people, people who are struggling with a unique situation in life.

The reason it touched me is because I have a student that everyone calls “THAT child.” He isn’t liked too much by teachers because he is constantly having meltdowns in class, which consist of swearing, crying, and the occasional tantrum. I can’t necessarily tell all of these teachers what I know about his family situation. I can’t tell them about his home life. I can tell them that he once told me I was the only person he trusts, but I can’t tell the teachers what other adults have done to violate his trust. And it kills me a little bit inside; it really does. I want everyone to love this kid as much as I do, but many only see the problems he creates in class.

I would like to do what Amy Murray did. I would like to beg for people – parents, teachers, and students alike – to stop and think before making judgments about other students. While students may do bad things, I truly believe that no student is inherently “bad.” All of us at one time or another have made mistakes. Please realize that some of my students are using the only coping strategies they have ever been taught at home. I am trying so hard to help, but it is hard to change 12 or 13 years of habit.

And I beg all educators to love their students, each and every one of them, but to especially show a little love towards “THAT child.” After all, I’m sure we were all “THAT child” at one point in our lives.

To read the letter from Amy Murray, please click here.

Raising Readers

wallpaper__book_by_analaurasam-d6cak0wBy Peggy Wuenstel — I have posted before about my recent career change to reading intervention.

After more than a full year under my belt I am reviewing some of the key moments and lessons I have learned. I also have a few new challenges to meet and skills to refine. That is what this change of direction has created , a new mission to guide students in growing in both their skills and love of reading.

In my final practicum experience I was privileged to work with a young man who had suffered a severe brain injury in an automobile accident eight years before. While we worked on his reading accuracy, use of appropriate strategies, and building his confidence, I realized that I had to do more to make this meaningful for him. He was the typical high school sophomore, interested in girls, sports, working out, and hanging out with friends. He was also unique in his love of farming and certainty about his career path in joining the family farm business. We read farm journals together, and his reading for enjoyment grew exponentially. He also discovered that texting suited his challenged spelling skills. His confidence in being able to make himself understood led to a wonderful e-mail from his mom who was delighted that her son was now texting her independently.

My takeaway: Make it real for your students and reading will become a student priority.

It is easy to get overly focused on creating accuracy, comprehension, and fluency in emerging readers. Those are the things that are easy to measure, that we are held accountable for in district goal setting and common core standards. If our intent is to create lifelong readers we must not forget our responsibilities to also build confidence and motivation to read. That has been the biggest change in my approach to my students in this school year. We read to learn, to laugh, to share. Decoding, remembering and applying strategies are the way we get there, not the destination. My takeaway here: Teach me how, but remember why I want to read.

Raising readers has to begin early. Research conducted by Dr. Pia Rebello Britto of Yale University looked at the interactions of teen moms and their children. Children of storytellers perform better than children of story readers. The difference is the orientation to have a conversation, an interaction about the shared reading experience. We need to encourage parents and students to add what they think, predict what may happen next, and connect to what they have read before. We need to teach kids to that book characters can be friends, and should be frequent visitors, companions for a whole life. This extends thinking, builds vocabulary, encourages creativity, and adds miles on the page. My takeaway: get readers to make friends with books early, often, and widely.

We know that the minutes we can spend reading during the school day are not enough to ensure strong reading development. We need to make parents feel important and capable in this joint process.  Encourage them to label and point to things in the story that interest, surprise, or anger them. This can happen at any age. We can over-emphasize accuracy and forget about meaning and fun. Parents need to know that it is okay to provide high levels of guided assistance.  It is not only okay, it is great to fill in the words kids don’t know. At school it is our mission to link instruction to what child needs. At home, it can be to give kids what they need to be successful with a book and allowing them to enjoy it, such as giving clear verbal cues, filling in the background information that kids need to understand.

Get out the map, the dictionary, Google what you don’t know. A great way to think about reading instruction is to use a crossword puzzle analogy. Ask readers to do as much as they can, to try some things that may or may not work based on the information they do have. Assist them in looking up the answers for the remaining blanks. Nobody knows everything.  Puzzles can be easy or hard. It helps when you know the words that get used over and over again, and reading and puzzles are so much more satisfying when the boxes are all filled.

My takeaway:  Empower parents to help everyone have fun.

Literate communities should be a community concern. Be aware of what are things like in the community in which you teach. Where are improvements needed? What partnerships exist and which ones can be built? Get books into the hands of those who need them. Check out organizations, local and global that can provide resources. Start a book club, hold a literacy night. Partner with your local library. Check out programs like milkandbookies.org, wegivebooks.org and firstbooks.org for ideas. My takeaway: Build alliances, find partners, reach out and teach.

Lastly, use your adult voice. Keep reading aloud in school and at home.  This falls off markedly in homes for kids after age 9. Older kids love to be read to. Cultivate your inner actor, impressionist, and comedian. Choose books at an appropriate reading/listening level. The goals here are understanding and enjoyment not advancement. Revisit old favorites, those books you want to hear again and again.  Embrace the audiobook. My 6th grade granddaughter has asked for the Jim Dale narrations of the Harry Potter series for Christmas this year. You can bet they will be under our tree with her name on them.

My takeaway:  Reading aloud is a gift we can and should share. Do it tonight.

What Students REALLY Need to Hear

keep-goingIt’s a busy week on campus. We just got past mid-terms, and now it’s time to dig into the end of the semester tasks. Same is true at K-12 schools. And with children beginning to get excited for the holidays, keeping focus can be challenging.

So, today, we thought we’d share this message written by Chase Mielke, a high school teacher, trainer, and instructional coach who blogs at Affective Living.  We think his message will resonate — not only with those of you who teach or who are training to be teachers — but also for everyone who’s struggling to get through the semester.

It’s 4 a.m.  I’ve struggled for the last hour to go to sleep.  But, I can’t.  Yet again, I am tossing and turning, unable to shut down my brain.  Why?  Because I am stressed about my students.  Really stressed.  I’m so stressed that I can only think to write down what I really want to say — the real truth I’ve been needing to say — and vow to myself that I will let my students hear what I really think tomorrow.

This is what students really need to hear:

First, you need to know right now that I care about you. In fact, I care about you more than you may care about yourself.  And I care not just about your grades or your test scores, but about you as a person. And, because I care, I need to be honest with you. Do I have permission to be honest with you — both in what I say and how I say it?

Here’s the thing: I lose sleep because of you.  Every week.  [Read More]

Tuesday Trivia: November 18, 2014

How much do YOU know about Marquette University and the College of Education?
Test your knowledge (and win cool prizes) every Tuesday!


In light of Thanksgiving next week, the COED is testing your cache of Thanksgiving knowledge this week.  (There will be no trivia next week, but expect the final round of trivia for the semester when we return from Thanksgiving break!)  
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, how big (in weight and diameter) was the largest pumpkin pie ever baked?


Claim your chance to win by leaving the correct answer in the comments section below anytime today between 7am – 11pm. And don’t be afraid to play, even if someone has already posted the right answer! One winner will be randomly selected from ALL correct answers and announced the following day.  The winner will be posted on our Facebook page and notified by email.  Please note that you must have a valid email address listed in your comment or WordPress profile to win.

Understanding and Embracing Senioritis

senioritisBy Nick McDaniels — My students are catching it.  I can tell.  In fact, it’s coming early this year.


College acceptances go up, effort goes down. This year though, instead of fighting it, I plan to embrace it.  What I have realized in my brief tenure of teaching 12th graders is that senioritis is a phenomenon not built upon teenage entitlement or teenage laziness as I thought, but built on a teenager’s want to turn the page before the teachers want the page to be turned.  I’m going to let my seniors turn the page by giving them more college-level assignments, more adult-level tasks, by putting them in situations where they can teach others, rather than always learn from.

Of course, I still need to assign the work, the papers, the projects that the curriculum requires.  And I will.  But this time with a different structure.  Students will be more independently driven when writing their term papers, will be guided more instead of directly instructed, and will be held accountable just as much for their abilities to manage their time independently (a grown-up skill in their mind) as they are on actually producing a product (a student skill in their mind).

But what’s really exciting, and in the same vein, is that I now have the opportunity to get my students out on internships.  They just finished writing their cover letters and resumes and at least ten of them hope to spend the hours of my class in the field working in law offices, non-profits, and other businesses. In this way, my students will get to feel like adults. That’s what they want anyway, it seems.

Further, I am excited to find opportunities for my students to work with younger students as much as possible. Whether that involves seniors helping to coach the mock trial team for sophomores and juniors, or emphasizing the program I advise whereby seniors mentor freshmen, allowing seniors to feel like they are trusted with a task that involves more than meeting the standards of a teacher, will drive engagement up. Why? Because those types of assignments, which demonstrate just as much learning, mastery, and expertise of content as any other type of assignment, don’t feel like school.

That’s my goal! Wish us luck as we try to go with the flow, make the school that seniors want so desperately to be out of feel not so much like school, keep the work meaningful and the effort high.

Keeping Students Informed on News…On Their Terms

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By Clare Jorgensen – News outlets can be found everywhere we look. In fact, we can now access them directly from our phones, tablets, computers, televisions and (less popularly) newspapers!

With the many news sources available, sometimes it can be overwhelming to decide which sources to trust.  High school and college-age students can easily be susceptible to one-sided views through FOX News, MSNBC, and occasionally CNN. They too do not often get the right information if students only get their news from Facebook, Twitter, Buzzfeed, etc.

While it is good that news is always available, it would be very beneficial for teachers to offer ways to keep students updated on what is happening in the world with easy and reliable outlets.

Last semester in Education 1210, my professor asked us at every class what we heard about in the news, and we would have open discussions based on what was brought up. For a while, I did not participate much in the conversation, because I did not follow the news very closely, but I soon realized that it was an important tool for teachers to open up discussions in any class.

To get more involved in the conversation, I occasionally watched the local news on weekday nights, or I would look through CNN online. These alone are often reasonable ways to get the news, but many students can often be too busy for long-winded articles or 30-minute to hour-long reports on the news, so there has to be some simpler solutions.

Teachers could recommend to their students with smart phones to get Flipboard or StumbleUpon. Both apps have personalized snapshots of different news stories where they explain everything in simpler terms for the readers on the go. For students who do not have smart phones, teachers can bring newspapers to class where the students can borrow them, and take them to lunch or home to catch up on the news.

While I am preparing to be a Spanish teacher, I will want to maintain conversations with students, and I could do this by mentioning various news stories happening in Spanish-speaking countries or even closer to home. I could give them news story printouts so they can see the story firsthand, and the students can aim to discuss in Spanish, so they may gain some confidence in speaking.

Lastly, while the conversations or topics are not always appropriate for junior high or high school students, it can be great for teachers to implement various clips from the “Daily Show,” the “Colbert Report,” or “Last Week, Tonight” to get students a funny yet informative view on the news. It allows for students learn about issues happening across the globe, but with tones of humor, which many people can understand. Clips from these shows along with many other sources from the Internet can prove very helpful in keeping students informed, and it is always beneficial that students can lead informed conversations in any class, which could lead into the general class discussion.

Providing Parenting Advice … Even When You’re Not a Parent

MjAxMi0wYzU2Y2EwNzQzNTM2NWJjBy Sabrina Bong — About a year ago, my fiance and I volunteered to babysit his sister’s children overnight.

The girls, who were five and one at the time, were super excited that they got to spend one-on-one time with Rob and I. The oldest one was so eager to have us over that she almost shoved her parents out the door in her excitement! It was a little rough at first (if you have never cooked before with a one year old holding onto your leg and a five year old who is trying to help, but really is making an enormous mess, it’s quite an experience!) but we managed to get both girls fed, bathed, and in bed at a reasonable hour. Once the oldest one was finally asleep, Rob and I collapsed on the sofa before saying to each other, “That was an experience!”

As Rob and I prepare for our wedding (in 10 days!), we have talked about having kids in the future. Though we are not ready anytime soon, we have occasionally discussed what will happen when we become parents. Our conversations have ranged from how we will juggle soccer and karate practices, to how we want to discipline our children. But the majority of our talks revolve around how we want to raise our children. We have talked about taking the best of how our parents raised us, and then blend it with some of our own ideas.

Beyond all of these discussions, and the night we watched the girls, I have not really thought too much about being a parent and parenting advice. However, this recently changed when one of my students fell on some hard times.

This student of mine is a very sweet, very kind young girl. She has been dealt a lot of hard cards in life: she was homeless last year, and is currently living with a relative. She recently started stealing things from her parents, as well as outside organizations. Her parents are unsure what to do, and turned to our principal for help. She, in turn, suggested that the parents come in to meet with me and the head counselor in my building to discuss parenting strategies.

When she first suggested this, I was baffled. What advice on parenting could I offer, when my “parenting” experience is pretty much nonexistent?

When I brought this up, the head counselor reminded me that I gave a lot of advice to boys, even though I was never a teenage boy. He then told me that even though I didn’t have experience parenting, that I knew enough to help guide these parents into how they could talk to their child about her stealing and lying behaviors.

Our first session with the parents went pretty well. To be honest, I was pretty quiet; I was struggling with how best to phrase my suggestions. For example, when the mother asked if it was appropriate to take her daughter to a juvenile detention facility to show what her life could end up like, the head counselor gently, but firmly, vetoed that idea. But the way he did it was fantastic; he was completely honest, but did not make the parent feel defensive. I am not exactly sure how he managed to do this, but it is a technique that I am working hard to learn.

So far, this has been a very eye-opening experience. I have learned that I can provide valuable advice, even if I do not have first-hand expertise in an area. I have also learned that it is okay to respectfully disagree with parents. I am sure that all of the things I am learning now will be incredibly helpful … not only with the parents I work with, but for my possible future as a parent!

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