5 Ways to Brand Your Middle School Classroom

www.mrsfenger.wordpress.comEach year, our team of two to three teachers selects a team name.  In the past, we’ve been the Scooby Doo team, the Mustangs, the Titanic, and many others.  This year, we’re going in a different direction.  In an effort to help our students see themselves as competent, smart, amazing students, we are Team Awesome.

We’ve made posters to put on the walls, a sign for our showcase and postcards to mail home to the students.

IMG_0221 www.mrsfenger.wordpress.comDid you know you can make posters at Office Max for just over a dollar?  My daughter does this for her job, often, so she suggested I check it out.  I made 9 posters – 11X17.  They cost $1.18 each!  They look awesome, too!

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The postcards will be mailed home to each student to get them excited about going to school.  We don’t have much time to motivate them, so  I like to start as early as possible.  They say

Welcome to Team Awesome!

Congratulations on being selected! You are a valuable member of the team and we are thrilled to have you.

It also explains about our Back to School BBQ and the first day.  But it ends with

Hope you’re excited, because we are!

See you then,

Your Teachers

Ordinarily, we would sign our names, but we’re in the process of hiring our third teacher, so we couldn’t do that.

IMG_0226 www.mrsfenger.wordpress.comI also put letters above the door to my classroom – going in they say “Make Today Awesome”.  Leaving, they say “Be Awesome Today”.  I also used window markers on my window – I wrote “Make Today Awesome” and “If it is to be, it is up to me”.  The window is right next to the smartboard, so they will see it every day while they are in my classroom. (And, of course, who doesn’t spend time looking out the window while you’re in class, right?)

We are hoping to find sponsors to purchase t-shirts for the students, too.  With these t-shirts, we’ll be able to build that identity in our students.  Which leads us back to the title: Branding Your Classroom.  The longer I teach, the more convinced I am that students are searching for an identity.  We can give them a positive one, or they can find one of their own.  The problem is, some of the identities they search out are not positive for them.  By making them a member of Team Awesome, we’re giving them that positive identity.

What do you do to help your students feel like a part of a team?

Building Your School’s Likeability

www.mrsfenger.wordpress.comSo, this summer, my goal has been to increase the school district’s likeability on facebook.com.  I have used several strategies which seem to be somewhat successful:

First, I specifically posted a request for people to like the page.  I also invited friends from my contacts to like the page.  My hope is that alumni will like the page and be able to keep up with happenings in the district.   I also hope that people in the community will be more aware of positives that are happening.

Second, I started a series of features about teachers in the district.  I sent a list of questions to various teachers with a request to send me the answers, along with a picture.  The list of questions is here:

Facebook Bio Questions for teachers

This feature has been very popular.  It’s gotten the most likes and comments of any of our posts.  Parents have commented how much they appreciate the chance to get to know their child’s teacher before school starts (and their child also likes it!)  It’s been fun to see what teachers’ answers are, too!www.mrsfenger.wordpress.com

The third thing I started this summer was a Throwback Thursday post.  I’ve posted pictures from old yearbooks and asking people to post their own oldies.  People seem to really enjoy these posts, too.

Fourth, I asked people to finish the sentence: the best thing about our school is: _______

www.mrsfenger.wordpress.comFinally, I added a chance for people to take a trip down Memory Lane:  I asked people to comment with their favorite memories of elementary school, then middle school, then high school.  This has brought up some fun memories and it’s also been wonderful to see what people remember about their school days years later.  Something to keep in mind when planning that oh, so wonderful grammar lesson (which could be forgotten oh, so quickly!)

 

Stopping the Tattling

tattle tale meme

I’m always amazed at how many of my sixth graders still tattle.  While I want them to report certain behaviors, sometimes it’s not really necessary.

We had a counselor a number of years ago who had a really good strategy for helping students decide whether to report a behavior.  He called it the 3 Ds.  The students needed to ask themselves whether the behavior is Dangerous, Destructive, or Disturbing.  If so, it should be reported to an adult.stopping the tattling www.mrsfenger.wordpress.com

I still use this in my classroom today.  I teach it to the students at the beginning of the year.  We discuss what each of the terms mean and then go over examples and non-examples.  For instance, if a student is going to tell me that he saw someone using pen when they are supposed to use pencil, that would be a non-example.  We discuss together why that’s not really dangerous, disturbing or destructive.  On the other hand, if they see a student hurting another student, that would be appropriate to report.

 

no more tattling www.mrsfenger.wordpress.comI also talk to them about the fact that we are a team and we help each other.  Therefore, they need to report anything that does fit the 3 Ds.  Otherwise, someone or something could get hurt or damaged, and since we work together, we don’t want that.  I make a point of dealing with any behavior that is reported.  This builds trust in the students and they are more willing to report problem behavior in the future.

Between building a family kind of feeling and teaching them explicitly what should be reported, the students have a clear expectation that if they report something, it will be addressed.  I often ask students if they believe that I will deal with it, and they always say yes, they believe it.  That’s the real key, is following through after something has been reported.  Sometimes, it takes as little as a quick conversation with the other student (often they don’t realize they shouldn’t do whatever it was).  Sometimes it make require a phone call home.  Either way, the students can rest assured that it has been dealt with.

This has worked wonders with my students.  I get very little tattling, but they are clear that I want to hear about things that fit the 3 Ds.

Relationships Matter: AMLE

Just read an article that reaffirms everything I believe about teaching middle school students:

AMLE publishes a newsletter at www.AMLE.org.  The article is entitled Relationships Matter by Sara Davis Powell.  It’s worth a read!  Simple things we can do to build a relationship with our students and let them know we care.

Click on the link below to see the article:

Relationships Matter article

My Latest Read

Each summer, I like to read education books to gain that all important professional development (the real thing, not just a seminar to check off on a box).

This year, I read Teaching With Poverty in Mind by Eric Jensen. teaching with poverty in mind mrsfenger.wordpress.com

If you have any students who qualify for free/reduced lunch, you need to read this book. It makes SO MUCH SENSE! My school has a high free/reduced lunch population. As I read, I saw my students represented in this book.

The main idea that I took from reading it, in terms of what I’m going to do differently in my class this year, is to affirm these students’ abilities. They need to be told often how wonderful and smart they are. I already did some of that, but this year, I plan to make a conscious effort. So much of their lives are uncertain, it’s hard for them to believe it.

 

After reading this book, I’m more convinced than ever that they need a different approach. They need to see me attempt things and fail, then continue on, because I’m confident in my abilities. They need to be reminded that they can succeed after failure because they have the strength and ability.

Power of Positive Thinking www.mrsfenger.wordpress.com

I often tell them stories about my running (mostly because running makes for good life metaphors). Last year, it came up that I never win the races I run. They were astounded (I don’t know why – I’ve told them frequently how slow I am!) I explained that I just run the races for the shirt and the food. That seemed to make some of them feel better. Apparently, they had this idea that I’m some sort of star athlete. I think the more I can share with them the problems I’ve encountered and the ways I’ve tried to overcome them, the better.

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Connecting with these students is SO important, too. Middle class students will often learn in spite of the teachers. However, these students need to care about their teacher and believe that their teacher cares about them.

So, who’s with me? Check out the book, then come back to my blog and see how things go this year! I’m excited to work with my new students and, hopefully, make a difference!