The Incredibly Needy Ones

Every teacher at some point has a student who is incredibly needy for every aspect of his school day. These needy students expect help from the moment they wake up each morning at home until their last wakeful moment of their day.

The difficult part of meeting the needs of a needy student is they are one of many who deserve and require your help and attention.  These students rob you of precious time and energy needed for the other students in your classroom.  Your job is then to wean that student of their dependence on others to make it through the day.

Here is the start of a list of the many needs one of these students may have at the beginning of the day:

  • hanging up their belongings once at school
  • putting on their shoes
  • unpacking home and school communication folder
  • following morning entry routine
  • locating personal supplies-pencil, eraser
  • etc……

The unfortunate thing about this is that it is only 10 minutes into the school day.

Stop!  A change needs to be made.

Tomorrow, upon entry at beginning of the day, circulate to praise students who are hanging up their belongings without making eye contact with your particularly needy student.

Talk about the morning routines that are established as you continue to circulate as students get themselves organized for the day.

This is the start of instilling independence in these needy students.  Once they have done one small thing independently, praise with enthusiasm.  Its all about breaking the cycle of dependency.

Throughout the day when they begin their daily rituals of demanding, interrupting, pouting  or crying, make eye contact with them but do not say anything.  Ignore the behavior for as long as you possibly can to give them the chance to correct themselves.

If they don’t stop, quickly remind them of the classroom behavior expectation they are not following and carry on with what you were doing.

While doing this be aware of your body language.  Do not approach the student, or bend down to their level.  This will only validate the behavior for the student in their own mind.

These students recognize that their behaviors are different from their peers. You must give them the tools and the belief in themselves that they can become more independent.

Once they begin to gain confidence in themselves, they will become more independent and will strive for more independence.

Feel free to make comments or ask questions about the post.








Take the Stress out of Holidays in the Classroom

Special holidays throughout the school year often wreck havoc on the regular routines already firmly established in a classroom. Both students and teachers are often experiencing additional stress created by holiday preparations at school and at home.

This can be compounded by the excitement of the anticipation of the holidays themselves.  Stress levels are high, tensions are high, nerves are on edge and adults and children’s ability to regulate their emotions are often compromised. This is setting up for the perfect storm in the classroom.

Usually the two to three days prior to the holiday break are the most challenging. Often there are special events going on in the school and community which can make it a difficult to maintain control and uphold a sense of calm in the classroom and at home.

During times like this, teachers (and parents) will want to plan calming activities in between special events. You will want to maintain some of the regular routines but some will need to go.

Depending on the holiday, simple holiday themed crafts, along with paper and pencil activities that are easy and quick to set up and implement are life savers.  The activities you have planned need to be prepared ahead of time, stored away until they are needed, and should be able to be put out and put away easily and quickly.

The children should have a folder or storage container that can kept at their desks for completed and not completed activities. Children should be given the choice of which activity they want to do.

Try to have a wide variety of activities which will please all.  Some children love colouring, others love crafts, while others like reading, drawing, building and writing etc.

These activities will take some time to put together, but the pay off you will get to help keep yourself and your students less stressed and busily happy will make it all worthwhile.  Word searches, crossword puzzles, fun writing activities, holiday card making, holiday and seasonal themed crafts and book tubs all help to keep students busy and productive.

When the students are busy doing things they enjoy, everyone gets a chance to regroup and regain their inner composure. You will actually see and feel the stress and energy levels drop once children are quietly engaged in their chosen holiday themed activities.

These activities can done throughout the days leading up to the holiday whenever some down time is needed or becomes available. Provide each student with a personal tracking sheet listing the different activities that are available to them. Children love to have ownership over their learning and the choices they have and the tracking sheet provides this for them.

Now, sit back and enjoy the peace and harmony you have in your classroom while chaos abounds everywhere else!

Feel free to make comments!

Two Key Survival Tips for a New School Placement!

One of the first lessons a teacher at a new school needs to learn is how to get along with everyone in the school. Two easy ways to do this; thoroughly understand your place in the pecking order of the school, and embrace mutual respect.

Understanding your actual ‘pecking order’ in the school with your administration and fellow colleagues is critical. Firstly, you are not paid enough to make decisions in the school as a teacher and should not attempt to question decisions or make decisions unless you are asked to do so by your administration. Be sure you know, and respect ‘who the boss is’.

Secondly, if you are the ‘new kid on the block’, bide your time and feel things out with your fellow colleagues before trying to ‘rock the boat’ too much.  Unfortunately, there will always be experienced teachers who don’t want to hear what you have to offer. Thankfully though, there are those who will see you as a breath of fresh air and welcome your input.

Treat everyone within the school environment with the same degree of respect you would want: principal, custodian, support person, secretary, new and experienced colleagues, parent, student, early childhood educator, lunch supervisor, crossing guard, substitute teacher, librarian, technology specialist, bus driver, school nurse, psychologist, social worker etc.

These are all people whose services, help or favors you may need one day for whatever reason.  You’d be amazed the number of times I had to jump on a school bus at the end of the day looking for a student who had left something behind or asked someone to watch my class while I made an emergency washroom visit.

You want to be sure you have looked after your relationship with these various people.  A pleasant smile or greeting at the start or the end of the day or week as you pass each other in the hallway can go a long ways when you need it.

You cannot survive in a school working in isolation.  The successful running of a school along with your classroom requires a team effort; and you need all the team players you can get on your team.

Image result for do unto othersThe old saying ‘Do onto others as you would have them do unto you’ is a great mantra to follow.  If your treat people well, in all likelihood, they will treat you well back.  It sounds so simple but its amazing how it can work for you.

Did you know that; “10% of conflicts are due to difference in opinion. 90% are due to wrong tone of voice.” Unknown

How many times are conversations, looks, comments, texts, emails etc. misconstrued by yourself until you question the intended meaning. Choose your words carefully and be aware of your body language!

“There are some people who always seem angry and continuously look for conflict. Walk away from these people. The battle they’re are fighting isn’t with you, it’s with themselves.” Rashida Rowe

“Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” Ronald Reagan

There will always be those within a school who have a natural tendency towards conflict and negativity. Avoid these people when possible and when it is unavoidable, use every resource you can muster up within yourself to resolve the issue with limited collateral damage.

The following quotes will hopefully give you some ‘food for thought’ for the next time you find yourself in conflict with a fellow staff member.


Image result for pick and choose your battles quotes

Cheer For The Underdog! Two Steps Forward, One Step Back!

We have all had ‘the’ student that every teacher dreads to get, based on their ‘reputation’ or their file from a previous school. These students are the underdogs of the education system.

Most often all they need is someone to believe in them.  It takes time and a great deal of effort but the payoff for the student, the classroom and yourself can be huge.

After a career of 27 years, I can compile a long list of these students with a few who really stand out at the top of the list.

Often these students come to you with layers and layers of hurt, rejection, anger, frustration, and low self esteem.

Trying to peel off these layers to reach into the core of that student can be exhausting.  It takes patience, understanding, compassion and determination.

The biggest key to reaching through these students is letting them know that you believe they are capable.  Capable of: learning, socializing appropriately, and being respectful of others and oneself.

Tell them you will never ask them to do anything you feel they are not capable of.  Your expectations of the student must be realistic and attainable.

The student must now slowly begin to believe this himself with your help.

Meet quietly with the student one on one and ask them if they could change something about their experience in your classroom that would make it a better place for them, what would that be.

This is the starting place.

Take time out each day to talk with this student to see how things are going in the area he has chosen to improve.

Use small moments throughout the day to provide encouragement and feedback. When there is a problem, meet with the student privately to discuss why they feel the problem occurred and try to reset the day.

When you feel the student is ready, discuss another area they feel they would like to see improved.  If the student feels he has not improved, revisit it with him and try to determine why together and discuss some tools which might help him.

These students need to feel valued. When time is set aside just for them, no matter how short the duration is, they will begin to feel valued.

Often the smallest of encounters with a student can make a difference.  They need to feel you are on their team.

Once they begin to feel better about themselves, improved classroom behavior and overall social interaction will gradually begin to happen and more learning will occur.

There will be setbacks but remember; two steps forward, one step back is still progress.

The Quiet Ones

We have all had our share of boisterous students and usually remember the most challenging students.

But, do we remember the quiet ones.

We often have to think hard to recall them.

It is very easy for them to get lost in the hubbub of the classroom and school environment.

There can be many reasons for their silence.

What we need to understand is that shyness is a combination of emotions.

It can stem from fear, tension, apprehension and embarrassment.

These students need a teacher’s help to find their voice in the classroom.

Talking quietly one on one with the student to get to know them better is a great place to start.

It can be amazing what you find out about these quiet ones.

These are some strategies you can use to help these students.

Group Area

These quiet ones tend to sit at the back of the group and usually don’t have a ‘go to’ person to sit beside.

Talk to them privately and ask them to sit closer to the front.

Seating Arrangement

Meet with this student and ask them to name 3 people they think they would like to get to know better and have their desk placed beside.

Discretely make some seating changes to enable this student to sit beside one of their choices.

Partner or Group Work

When you are pairing students up to work together, try to pair them up with someone they have indicated on their list.

When students are asked to select a partner, allow this student to have one of the first picks when selecting their partner.

Goal Setting

Meet with this student to discuss a starting goal for the number of times they raise their hand and speak up in front of the class.

Prepare a simple chart for each day.

They can keep this at their desk and have them check off daily how many times they raised their hand and participated orally in the class.

Ensure the student understands that these are only goals and they can be readjusted if necessary depending on the success of the goal setting.

Point out to the student that their progress may only be seen in very small steps but celebrate any progress which will help them take positive risks and overcome obstacles.

Recess/Break Time

Recess or break time can be a lonely time for these students.

There may also be another student you know who does not have a friend to play with, or socialize with and they could be paired up together.


Meet with the student briefly before a lesson or discussion and give them some time to prepare an answer, opinion or question to contribute during the lesson.

Practice/Role Play

If the student is willing, have the student rehearse with a peer what they would like to say to the class during a lesson.

You can also teach them socialization skills by conducting a lesson in the classroom on how to join a group and how to accept a new member in a group.

Class Climate

You will want to promote inclusion and the acceptance of others in your classroom to create a safe environment for all.

The differences we see in each other should be celebrated and valued.

Shy students will slowly begin to feel they can contribute in their own way without judgement or embarrassment.

Classroom Jobs

Give shy students a job to do in the classroom such as handing out supplies or collecting materials.

A job will help them further develop their social skills through the interaction with their peers and boost their confidence.

Wait Time

Shy students often need a longer wait time for a response when they are called upon to participate orally.

The waiting can seem like an eternity but they most often will respond if given the time to do so.

Final Thoughts

All of the strategies mentioned are ways to help shy students become more confident and social; however, it all depends on the dynamics of your classroom and most importantly, your students.

It also starts with you, the teacher, to help these quiet ones find their voices in the classroom.

If you have not done so, please feel free to sign up for email notifications or click the follow button for the weekly posts.  I’d also love to hear from you about the post or strategies you have tried in your classroom.

Happy Teacher…Happy Students; Happy Students…Happy Teacher!

All teachers know that teaching is both a rewarding and challenging career.  Being responsible for the development of growing minds is a huge responsibility.

It’s an all consuming job which requires teachers to be ‘on their game’ every minute of the day. However, when a teacher’s ‘game is off’, for whatever reason, things in the classroom can unravel quickly or gradually depending on the root and severity of the problem.

Teachers need to ensure they are taking care of themselves in every aspect of their lives.  This is a challenge since teachers tend to put themselves at the bottom of their To Do list.  You need to start moving your needs up the priority list. The caring for and nurturing of your physical, psychological, nutritional and professional well being is essential.

Teachers and students alike have a desire to be respected, honoured and valued.  This desire, despite the behaviors and problems witnessed and felt by teachers and students around the world, is a basic human need.  With so many pressures today on the family unit along with the changing faces of the family and society as a whole, teachers need to create a climate within the classroom which embodies mutual respect, honour and value. This, in itself, is a huge challenge.  When teachers slowly begin to prioritize some of their own needs, it becomes possible to begin to meet more of the needs of their students.

Teachers’ roles are changing rapidly and are often moving far beyond the curriculum.  Teachers are experiencing unprecedented pressures today in the classroom from forces not felt before in the near and distant past. This makes it even more imperative that they ensure they are caring for themselves to give them the strength and stamina needed to help their students.

Start meeting more of your own basic needs before trying to create this positive climate within your classroom. Choose one thing each day to help you work towards improving your own well being.  You will then be able to gradually pass this calm and inner peace along to your students and they will subsequently begin to pass it back onto you.  It will, and can be passed back and forth to carry and sustain you both throughout the school year. 

Your own well being is where it all starts!

Happy Teacher…Happy Students;Happy Students…Happy Teacher

Suggested Readings/Activities


Timing and Pace; the Ultimate Challenge

Timing is defined as the choice, judgement, or control of when something should be done.

Pace is defined as the speed at which something happens. 

Timing and pace set the tone of your classroom and they are solely determined by you.  If your timing and pace are not synchronized, you will find the day to day running of your classroom a challenge.

Every new teacher finds timing and pace the ultimate challenge.  Mastering this skill in the classroom is achieved by: getting to know your students, careful planning, having a well flowing schedule, being flexible, taking risks, trial and error, and experience.

Getting to know your students:

I’ve been thinking about a rule of thumb to follow and came up with a simple mathematical solution; multiply your student’s age by 2.  This will be the number of minutes you have to complete your lesson; before you begin to lose the masses.

Once you get to know your students well, and as they mature throughout the year, you may find you can adjust the formula. As you plan your lessons, keep in mind the time restraints you will have as the year progresses.

Careful Planning

Possibly every teacher’s worst nightmare is to under plan.  Under planning leaves voids of time to be filled by what? Therefore, you need to plan carefully.

Over planning is highly recommended because what you don’t get done today, can be done tomorrow.

Always have an activity in your back pocket which can serve as a review or reinforcement of previously taught material for times of under planning.

Being Flexible

The wiki definition of the idiom the best laid plans sums this up well.

A proverbial expression used to signify the futility of making detailed plans when the ability to fully or even partially execute them is uncertain.

Teachers need to develop the ability to be flexible when things aren’t going the way they had planned. There may be a multitude of forces which come into play each day that cannot be planned for or anticipated.

This is when it is critical that you have the ability to be flexible.  If you aren’t flexible with your planning, you may find yourself working against forces you cannot control or stop.

Well Flowing Schedule

The schedule you follow in your own classroom should be a work of art.  When planning out your schedule, you firstly need to consider the needs of your students.  Secondly, consider what subject areas you need to cover and the time allotment needed for each.

Consider the following when planning your daily and weekly schedule:

  • attention span of your students
  • time spent in their seats
  • time spent at group areas
  • length of lessons
  • length of seat work periods
  • natural breaks in the day
  • time spent listening
  • time spent sharing
  • time on hands on activities
  • curriculum content

Your schedule should be balanced and flow naturally so students and yourself are moving easily through the day and week from one activity to another.

Be Willing To Take Risks

One of the most rewarding aspects of teaching is trying something new.  It can be like a breath of fresh air for yourself and your students.

Taking yourself ‘out of your comfort zone’ can be be risky but also very rewarding when you feel and see the new growth in your teaching practice.  This risk taking will help you fine tune the timing and pace you establish in your classroom.

Trial and Error

Trial and error requires confidence and trust in yourself as an educator, colleague and role model. Consulting with others who have ‘stepped out of the box’ can help with the planning of new adventures in the classroom or bring new perspectives into your classroom to try.

Have faith in yourself and keep trying to fine tune your practice until you have your classroom running in a manner which works best for your students and yourself.


Experience speaks volumes but does not always have to be measured in years.  It can be measured in short snippets of time. The key to experience is learning, growing, and reflecting on what you have done and taking this forward with you into the future.

Final Thoughts

Placing yourself in front of a classroom of students day after day is a leap of faith in one’s ability to educate.  Have faith in yourself and your students; to enable you both to create a smoothrunnin’ classroom together.