Developing a classroom that is focused on learning should be the goal of every teacher. Unfortunately, many teachers and administrators may mistakenly think that their classrooms already are. After all, what else can a classroom be focused on? Check out The Two Things Teachers Focus on Most Instead of Learning or see if your classroom has gotten confused by the difference between Objectives vs Obstacles of Learning. Take the $10,000 Challenge and see if you’re ready for Step 1.
1) Accept Responsibility for Learning
Before you can develop a classroom that is truly focused on learning, you must first acknowledge that you as a classroom teacher have within you the power to overcome all obstacles and GURANTEE your students learning. Familiarize yourself with Dr. Anthony Muhammad’s work by asking Am I a Believer? Consider how things might be different if you had ZERO educational training in The Parable of the Untrained Sub. True Edunators are prepared to Stop Playing the Victim and accept responsibility for student learning.
2) Grade for Learning
After you’ve accepted the challenge to ensure your classroom is focused on learning, hold yourself accountable to the idea by only including things in your gradebook that reflect the actual learning of content knowledge. Drawing on the work of Ken ‘O Connor, consider the Trouble with Grading and What’s In a Letter Grade. Take some time to Audit Your Gradebook and consider alternative means to assessment, like Oral Defense Grading.
3) Develop a Culture of Learning
A true culture of learning is more than just rules and procedures to overcome obstacles. It’s a complete mindset in how you go about addressing obstacles of learning. Peruse through the Obstacles of Learning Solution Index to get some ideas and remember the secret that great teachers already know, but nobody likes to talk about.
4) Lesson Plan for Learning
Learning doesn’t happen by accident. It takes carefully designed instruction that embeds both Formative Assessment and Differentiated Instruction. Learn how to use the Four Critical Questions of a PLC from a student’s perspective to drive your lesson planning and check out the hidden link between Video Games and Learning, courtesy of Dr. Bobb Darnell.
Teaching kids how to learn might be more important than anything else we teach them. Begin this process by requiring kids to look back on their learning and determine what worked for them and what didn’t. You’ll be amazed how honest they can be and how much their behavior changes. Model reflection with students and reflect upon your own best practices as well using the 30 Questions for Teacher Reflection. You and your students will both be better off for it.
Mark Clements is a Middle School Teacher in rural Missouri, the founding member of Edunators and the primary author of Edunators.com.
As a member of his building's Professional Learning Community Leadership Team, Mark takes pride in ensuring that his classroom is focused on learning and frequently utilizes differentiated instruction techniques as well cooperative learning structures. A long time practitioner of Dr. Kathie Nunley’s Layered Curriculum, Mark’s classroom now utilizes Standards Referenced Grading and has embedded formative assessment into student learning through the use of Reflection, Self and Peer Assessments. Mark likes to brag that he has not given a homework assignment in five years, believing there to be little academic value to the practice and instead insisting that home should be reserved for family, friends and play.
Mark has presented at the Missouri Middle School Association's annual conference as well as the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Powerful Learning Conference regarding “The Hard Truth About PLCs” and “Teaching Like the Terminator” as well as co-presenting on Standards Based Grading and developing a positive building culture amongst faculty. In Novermber of 2012 Mark's “Teaching Like the Terminator” presentation will be delivered by colleague and fellow Edunator Kista River at the Association for Middle Level Learner’s 38th Annual National Middle School Conference in Portland, OR. Kista will be filling in for Mark, who will be at home happily rocking his newborn son during the conference. He and his wife Kim, an Early Childhood Special Education teacher, are expecting their first child in November of 2012.
If you are interested in contacting Mark regarding presentations on “Teaching Like the Terminator”, “The Hard Truth About PLCs,” Standards Based Grading, Differentiated Instruction or any other professional inquiries, please do not hesitate to contact him using any of the methods below.
1. One who educates with extreme passion, takes education personally, and refuses to let any obstacle stand in the way of their students success. An Edunator is one for whom “Not learning is not an option.”
HERE).Thanks to a fictional futuristic robot and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s awesomely bad accent, adding “anator” or “inator” to the end of virtually any word conjurs images of destruction, murder and mayhem or at the very least makes ordinary nouns into words. If I say “desk” it means one thing. If I say “Deskinator” we’re either talking about something that destroys desks at an alarming rate or something that creates them equally as impressively. It’s a fun little quirk of eytemology, give it a go sometime. “Puppynator,” “Taxinator,” or “Pestinator,” you get the idea. (If for some sick reason you want to continue reading about this, click
Yes, we acknowledge that the appropriate suffix associated with “education” is simply “tor” thus creating the word “Educator,” or one who educates. That sounds nice, but that’s just the problem. It sounds too nice.
Edunators is a website dedicated to helping teachers overcome the obstacles that prevent them from focusing on learning in the classroom. We take pride in oversimplifying the complex and discussing some of Education’s biggest ideas in a more conversational tone. Our articles, blogs and presentations are designed to inform, entertain and inspire professionals working in the field of education.
We know that teachers are among the most underappreciated and overworked professionals in the world. For this reason, it can be difficult to keep up with the latest big ideas in our profession. We know sometimes teachers don’t have time to read the latest and greatest books or educational research and we appreciate that teachers and administrators alike sometimes just want somebody to tell it to them straight. That’s where we come in, offering easy to digest teaching strategies ranging from basic introductory material to more in-depth classroom ideas.
We also know that sometimes it’s much, much easier to be a bad teacher than it is to be a good one. There are a plethora of reasons why the teaching profession is under attack. Most of them are nonsense, but not all of them. So if we come off a little too blunt at times, it’s only because we know that every teacher went into this profession for the right reasons…they just sometimes forget what those reasons are. At Edunators, we are committed to reminding teachers of that starry-eyed optimism they entered the field with and showing them that all the dreams they had in their first day on the job are still achievable. Sometimes though, the truth hurts, and it’s important to acknowledge that the road to “Becoming the Edunator” is long and full of potholes.
We welcome your comments, emails and other forms of feedback and look forward to hearing what you have to say about our work. If there is anything we can do to help you or your school district, please do not hesitate to ask.
~Mark Clements, Edunators