Goal #14 … Build an Ideal Classroom Culture

Goal 14: Build an Ideal Classroom Culture

How interesting that this goal runs parallel to our new evaluation system!

This goal actually builds upon the earlier goal where we are asked to focus our classroom goals on student learning. When we build an ideal classroom culture, then we are establishing a safe environment that encourages students to learn. As a teacher, we have the ultimate control to secure that ideal culture in our classroom.

First, though, you need to define “classroom culture” — more specifically, define your classroom culture. Take a day to observe, note the behaviors of students regarding each other, regarding work, regarding the teacher; note your own attitudes and feelings regarding the curriculum and students you teach. Does everyone get along? Are there opportunities for everyone to bond?1206564626633666494sarxos_Magnifying_Glass_svg_med

Does how you feel – about the course, the curriculum, the students – impact your instruction and classroom culture? Be honest with yourself. Through true, honest reflection growth can be achieved and student learning could be impacted.

The blog mentioned later tells the story of a teacher who had a culture that encourage student ideas. One group of students wanted to start a book club, and through engaging parents, they were able to provide this learning opportunities for their students. What can you do? What do you do to encourage an ideal classroom culture?


Short-term — Observe your classroom.  Watch the students’ behavior towards one another.  Do they communicate with each other?  Do they have trust in you?  Do they get along with each other?  Do they understand the rules and respect each other?  Do they feel they can ask you questions?  Take observation notes and determine what your classroom culture is perceived to be by these observations.  Is this what you want your classroom culture to be like?

Long-Term — How can you improve your classroom culture? Do you need to make changes to the environment? Do you need to rearrange desks? Do you need to have more activities that help students learn to build a connection with each other? Think of ways to implement the changes to improve your classroom culture.


 “Education is the process by which the individual relates himself to the universe, give himself citizenship in the changing world, share’s the race’s mind and enfranchises his own soul.”  ~ John Finley  


Teacher at Work! Parents Keep Out! by @dalmatiasecond


Observe your classroom. Take observation notes and determine what your classroom culture is perceived to be by these observations. Is this what you want your classroom culture to be like? How can you have your classroom culture reflect your educational philosophy?Observe

Goal #13 … Reflecting on Failures

Goal 13: Help Them Reflect on Their Failures


“Don’t look where you fall, but where you slipped.” ~African Proverb

I remember the summer I attended the Differentiated Reading Instruction training course.  I was so excited because I felt like I finally “got it.”  The material was relevant; not only had I experienced differentiated instruction, but I also felt empowered to teach using this new-found philosophy.

As I prepared my classroom for the beginning of the year, I positioned my desks into small groups and established “rules” that I felt would fit.  After my first week, with students, I realized that I had fallen flat on my face.

Only through true reflection (and visiting the classroom of a teacher who successfully implemented small groups) did I learn that physical arrangement of desks did not make DI work.  What I needed was procedures and routines that helped students work effectively through cooperative learning.  Five years later, I believe that I achieved my goal.  This success may have evolved through mentoring and training (discovering Kagan Cooperative Learning Structures was the final piece), but it truly stemmed from my reflection and a desire to improve my craft.

This same experience can be true of our students.  I once heard the saying, “Failure is not an option,” and although I want to agree with this, I do realize that sometimes our students need to know that we can learn through our mistakes.  Thomas Edison’s experience with the light bulb shows us that he did not fail all those times the light bulb did not work, “we now know a11_12_52---Electric-Light-Bulb_web thousand ways not to build a light bulb.”  If we never allow our students the right to make a mistake, then they may never take the risk to be successful.  When they do make mistakes, however, we need to teach them how to accurately and positively reflect on those errors in an effort to learn from them.


Short-term– Have students write a reflection about what they feel they fail at and what they learn from failing and how it impacts them.

Long-term Find ways to allow room for failure in your classroom and have students reflect on it.

Fantastic Posts about this Goal!


Have students write a reflection about what they feel they fail at and what they learn from failing and how it impacts them.


  • Consider writing a blog/journal about a time you feel you failed.  What did you or can you learn from reflecting about that time?
  • Have your students write a reflection about the feelings of failure, the African proverb, or Thomas Edison’s story.  How can we learn from our mistakes? Do they feel that they have a place in their lives to reflect and learn?
  • Post to the conference site, my blog, or Twitter regarding your “aha’s” from this goal.

Goal #12 … Engage Parents.

Goal 12:  Engage Parents


“People have been known to achieve more as a result of working withothers than against them.”   ~Dr. Allan Fromme

Dealing with parents can be one of the most difficult aspects of our job as a teacher. For some of us, parents may not be too involved, and not many of us receive must training in dealing with parents.  (Check out the blog links below.)

Consider the difference, however, between involving parents and engaging parents.

“Involve” means to “include as a necessary part; or to cause a person to experience or participate in an activity;  “engage” means to “occupy, attract, or involve one’s interest or attention;  to establish a meaningful contact or connection with.”

If we are having a bake sale and a parent volunteers to help, he/she is involved.  But to engage parents is to ask for their input on what they would like to see or do in order to be more knowledgeable regarding what is not only going on in our classroom, but also ways in which they can support their child from home.

Our district has provided a valuable technology tool that could be used to engage parents.  Edline should not only be a way of communicating a students’ grade, but it also is a tool that can help you engage parents:  consider adding links to computer sites for support, uploading a podcast of your lecture, adding handouts for students to get a second copy, video taping your classroom (without students present) and posting it so parents can visualize where their child is for your class, etc.


Short-term  – This week find ways to seek ideas from parents to implement. Suggest ideas for others.

Long-term – Find ways to continue the dialogue with parents and listen to them throughout the year.

Fantastic Posts about this Goal!

Larry Ferlazzo’s Parent Engagement Blog
Larry Ferlazzo on the Difference Between Parent Involvement and Parent Engagement
Parentella– The Free Parent Teacher Social Newtork


This week find ways to seek ideas from parents to implement. Suggest ideas for others.


•    Reflect on the parents of your students.  How can you ENGAGE them in your class to support student learning and student achievement?
•    With your PLC or mentor, brainstorm ways to help you engage your parents.
•    Consider learning new tools of technology to incorporate with Edline.
•    Comment on the conference site, blog site, or on Twitter.(See previous goals for links.)

Goal #11 … Give Students Reign

Goal #11 … Give Students Reign #30Goals

Forum imageAs I listen to Sherry Terrell’s explanation of this goal, I am reminded of Carol Ann Tomlinson’s philosophy of (what I call) the shift in teaching.  In traditional classrooms, the teacher is the “sage on the stage,” the dispenser of all knowledge. This goal challenges us to have a paradigm shift – to become the “guide on the side.”  We should facilitate students learning … allow them to question, encourage them to inquire.  When we “give students reign,” we set up a structure and ask students to join us in our pursuit of learning.

Part of “giving students reign” requires a sense of collaboration between students and teacher.  Consider the following possibility:  set the objective and have a plan in mind, but once you get in the classroom, be flexible enough to allow students to guide the lesson.  Ask them how they would like to master the standard or learn the objective.

One practical way to begin this goal is to alter the physical arrangement of your classroom. Consider having the desks placed in 1 large circle … create triads … divide the desks in half and have each half face a different direction.  You might even consider asking students for their input into the desk arrangement.  Use the desks to facilitate different purposes.

Students have an amazing imagination, yet in our belief that they don’t, we often strip them of the ability to prove it.  Give them a chance to rule.  They may amaze you with their creativity.  What if they truly exceed your expectations?


Short-term – Let your students make the majority of the choices for one class period. Let them do the teaching and leading of the learning. Act as a facilitator.

Long-term – Try allowing your students to have reign of an entire class period once a month and if you’re really brave then once a week.


“It is important that students bring a certain ragamuffin, barefoot irreverence to their studies; they are not here to worship what is known, but to question it.”
~ Jacob Bronowski, The Ascent of Man

Fantastic Posts about this Goal!


Let your students make the majority of the choices for one class period. Let them do the teaching and leading of the learning. Act as a facilitator.


•    Reflect on your students.  Choose 1 piece of a lesson or a piece of your classroom that students can have some control over.  Set some foundational requirements, then set them free.
•    With your PLC or mentor, brainstorm ways to help you empower students to teach others.
•    Consider taking a differentiated instruction course to learn how to facilitate as oppose to dictate. 🙂
•    Comment on the conference site, blog site, or on Twitter.(See previous goals for links.)

Goal #10 … Plant a Seed of Belief

Goal 10: Plant a Seed of Belief #30Goals

Sherry Terrell tells this story to explain the importance of this goal.  While in a college course, she remembered a professor saying, “There will always be that kid that you just can’t reach.”  She continues to describe how this philosophy broke her heart.  This goal is intended to remind us of the value of having belief in our students.

As a teenager, I know that I may not have been the best student or daughter.  My parents, however, sacrificed their own comforts because they wanted all their children to graduate from college.  Everything they did worked toward that end. In my first year of college, my father introduced me to an old friend of his.  As we dropped off my car for the repair job, my dad said to this friend, “I’d like you to meet the daughter who has exceeded all my expectations.” That was a life-changing, life-defining moment for me.  I know from that moment on, I felt empowered to excel, a sense of pride that I could make my father that happy.

There are many success stories in which another person – a teacher, a mentor, a coach – has “planted a seed of belief” and reaped a harvest of joy.

One story in particular that I remember as being super powerful. A teacher, Ms. Crosby, had been assigned a particularly troubling classroom of students.  She was the only teacher to have lasted so long because the students thought that’s what they wanted – to get rid of teachers. After her observations of one month, she entered the room, opened her briefcase, and pulled out a stack of papers.  On each paper was a students’ name, and a statement of belief – what the student was good at – based on what she had observed.  Despite the fact that the students tried to make her life miserable, she continued this practice … every month, a new stack of papers, and more statements about what the student was good at doing.  ([ http://www.inspirational-short-stories.com/teacher-attitude.html ]http://www.inspirational-short-stories.com/teacher-attitude.html)

So … what are you doing to“plant a seed of belief” in your students?  Are you setting them up for success?  Belief can be a mustard-seed-faith_t_noverseself-fulfilling prophecy.  How will you prophecy over your students’ lives?


“If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you.”

~ Matthew 17:20

Our students need someone to believe in them.  In today’s society … with all the struggles, hatred, doubt, depression, neglect … our students need someone who will believe in them.  Pass it on; pay it forward!  Your belief will pay off just like those students.


Short-term – Brainstorm how you can show the students in your school who have no belief in themselves that you believe in them. Brainstorm how you can show the students in your classes your belief in them.

Long-term – Implement this idea by the endof next week.

**Important Announcements

•    Please note that I will cover 5 goals a week (Monday through Friday). I’m on CET so it might be a different time zone!
•    Over the weekend, I will also share an additional goal.
•    Join the global conversation … every Sunday for the Vokle Live Video Chat show with Lisa Dabbs, @teachingwthsoul, and Shelly Terrell at 11am PST/ 2PM EST/ 7pm GMT/ 8PM CET/ 9PM Athens/ 4PM Buenos Aires/ 5PM Sao Paulo/ 6am, Monday Sydney! Check more [ http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/fixedtime.html?day=6&month=2&year=2011&hour=14&min=0&sec=0&p1=179 ]time zones here!


Come up with a plan to show your belief in your students andespecially those who don’t seem to have people who believe in them.


•    Reflect on your students. Choose 1 student and reflect on a way to “plant a seed of belief” in him/her.
•    With your PLC or mentor, brainstorm ways to find empower students to believe in themselves.
•    Recall a time in your life when someone believed in you.  Reflect on the power of that belief.  How can you translate that to your students.
•    Comment on the conference site,blog site, or on Twitter. (See previous goals for links.)

Goal #9 … Make a Global Connection

Goal 9: Make A Global Connection #30Goals

I must admit … this is my favorite. 🙂


“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.”

by Socrates

I attended a seminar once where the keynote speaker talked about this concept.  Kylene Beers, renowned author and speaker, told of her daughter’s application to Google. (At the time, I didn’t think of Google as “having employees.”)  The application had a few prerequisites, but then it asked only 4 questions. (These, of course, are paraphrased.)

1.    Describe a project in which you collaborated with a team of people that crossed at least 4 time zones.

2.    How did you ensure that everyone’s voice was heard? (i.e., virtual table)

3.    How did you respect all cultural and religious differences?

4.    How did you present your material in a way that transcended those differences?

It was through this presentation, that I was inspired to make my first global connection.

Since then, I have discovered a whole new world beyond my little community.  In one of my Master’s classes, I attended via teleconference with a person in Hawaii and another in Belgium.  Last month, I attended the Reform Symposium Conference in my home with people all over the globe … including Shelly Terrell in Germany (author of the #30Goals initiative).

When you make a global connection – either professionally or with your classes – you find that other people have the same struggles that we do.  Our students need the skills to collaborate world-wide, yet we seldom give them the opportunity.  Consider some of the following projects that are currently happening in our world …

Voicethread: Global Collaboration between Germany, New Zealand, & Turkey

Log in to Shelly Terrell’s blog on this topic to hear herVoice Thread … [ http://teacherbootcamp.edublogs.org/2011/02/11/goal-9-make-a-global-connection-30goals/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TeacherBootCamp+%28TeacherBootCamp%29 ]http://teacherbootcamp.edublogs.org/2011/02/11/goal-9-make-a-global-connection-30goals/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TeacherBootCamp+%28TeacherBootCamp%29

Skype Across America: Students are discovering the 50 states by connecting through webcams.

[ http://www.ascensionschooltucson.org/Ascension_Lutheran_School/Skype_Across_America/Skype_Across_America.html ]http://www.ascensionschooltucson.org/Ascension_Lutheran_School/Skype_Across_America/Skype_Across_America.html


•    Several of the Global Projects you can participate in and archives of presentations [ http://technology4kids.pbworks.com/w/page/30554243/globalprojects ]are located in the Technology4Kids Wiki!
•     Several [ http://technology4kids.pbworks.com/Skype ]Skype resources in the Technology4Kids Wiki!
If you already participate in a global collaboration project please share with others how this has impacted your students!


·       Short-term – Research the global projects available and choose to have your students participate in one. If you already participate in a global project, please share the experience.

·       Long-term – Begin to think about how your global project can really foster intercultural communication, collaboration, and problem-solving.


Review the Global Projects listed in the wiki (see link above) and plan to implement a global project before the end of this year! If you already participate in one, please share the impact it has had on your students!

Secondary Challenge:

Make a global connection of your own.  Find another teacher or leader in another part of the country and/or globe and discuss a topic of interest to your teaching position.

My most exciting moment in this professional learning network was when I found my blog had “jumped the pond.”  I have at ClustrMapsleast 3 people who have checked into my blog.  It was exciting to know that those people may have discovered something from me, and that I will learn something new from them.  (See my ClustrMap to the right for the latest update.)


•    Reflect on the idea of global connections.  Why is it important?
•    In your PLC or with your mentor, try to plan a global project for you classroom next year.
•    Provide a reflection that shares how you applied this goal.
•    Comment on my blog … [ http://sylviaellison.edublogs.org/ ]http://sylviaellison.edublogs.org
•    Comment on Twitter … @SylviaEllison, #30Goals

Goal 8 … Rethink Student Behaviors & Classroom Management

Goal 8:Rethink Student Behavior & Classroom Management #30Goals


“I’ve come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or de-humanized.”

by Dr. Haim Ginott

Although this quote is often used in new teacher training, I think the impact of this quote on classroom management is lost.  Consider the behaviors of your students… how do you react?  Do you react quickly … just like our students? Or do you respond appropriately?  We need to rethink the idea of Punishment.

As teachers, we often find ourselves feeling stressed.  I think we forget our students also have that same level of stress.  The difference?  They don’t know how to deal with their issues.  Our students are not mature … they are still trying to understand how to deal with their struggles.  We need to begin helping them cope with their anger and change their own behavior instead of “passing the buck” onto administration. Once we do so, we lose any positive impact we may can have on our student behaviors and classroom management.

Consider having a classroom discussion on the appropriate ways to respond to stress or bad situations.  By focusing on positive, learned behaviors, we can hopefully train students and help them respond maturely instead of punishing them when they may not have another role model who can help to show them mature ways to respond.classroom management



Option A

During at least one class period have your students discuss how they deal with stress and have them reflect on positive ways to react to the stresses that surround them. During this time, listen as the students tell you the stress they deal with at home, from their peers, and just in general.

Option B

Reflect on your classroom rules and the punishments outlined for breaking them. Do these consequences really correct the behavior? If not, think of ways to change the consequences so that the student understands how to correct the behavior. Have students help you come up with consequences. Listen to what they think.

Option C

When the student that usually breaks a rule does, handle the situation differently. Talk to the student and figure out why this student reacts negatively to the situation. Try helping this student deal with the root of the problem.

Long-term– Make it a goal to get students to reflect on the rules, come up with the class rules, and think about appropriate consequences. Also, get students to develop ways to handle situations they know will arise. For example, have students think about when they are tempted to cheat, pick on another student, or participate in other negative behavior. What are ways they can reflect on the action in order to make better choices about their behavior. What are ways they can try to relieve their own stress before making decisions based on emotions or hormones?


Get your students to think about positive ways to deal with negative behavior. Try to find ways to have students correct their behavior versus just punishing them.


•    Reflect on your behavior management plan.  What adjustment might you make to improve its instruction-ability vs. punishing-consequences.
•    In your PLC or with your mentor, develop lesson plans that teach students how to reframe their responses.
•    Provide a reflection that shares how you applied this goal.
•    Comment on my blog … [ http://sylviaellison.edublogs.org/ ]http://sylviaellison.edublogs.org
•    Comment on Twitter … @SylviaEllison, #30Goals

Goal #7 … Play & Have Fun!

Goal 7: Play and Have Fun! #30Goals


“We spend the first twelve months of our children’s lives teaching them to walk and talk and the next twelve telling them to sit down and shut up.”

by Phyllis Diller

I was sitting in a classroom the other day observing.  During the debrief, I had to apologize to the teacher for not coming in more often because … “to be honest … I am a bit bored.”  The teacher quickly responded, “Pshew … so am I!”  As we continued to discuss the class in general, we discovered that the curriculum was boring not only to us, but also to the students.  So what do we do?  Take a look at this video.  ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lXh2n0aPyw )\”Piano Stairs: The Fun Theory\”

What might happen if we made learning fun?  Not just engaged students in fun activities, but actually helped them LEARN through fun experiments or fun topics or meaningful discussions.  Can you imagine?  School would no longer be the “have to do,” it could become the “want to do.”  Students might not skip classes anymore … well, at least not your class. J


Short-term–  Observe a child not in school play for at least 5 minutes. Notice how the child learns before the influence of school. Find a way to incorporate play, fun, and movement into a lesson this week. Ditch the worksheet! Also, reflect on how to integrate play that supports learning.

Long-term–  Think about limiting the amount of textbook work and worksheets used in class. Using less paper is environmentally friendly as well as offers the opportunities for students to move around and have fun with the learning. Try integrating fun and play into one lesson a week regularly.


  • Take a lesson outside!
  • Have students play a game!
  • Sit on pillows on the floor for your next discussion!
  • Try integrating a mobile device.
  • Go on a scavenger hunt or field study.


Observe how a child learns before the child starts school. Ditch at least one worksheet assignment this week and find a way to incorporate play and make the lesson fun!


  • Reflect on your lesson planning … what is one way you could adapt the “fun theory” to your lesson.
  • In your PLC or with your mentor, add a fun structure or strategy to your lesson that encourages the students to enjoy learning.
  • Provide a reflection that shares how you applied this goal.
  • Comment on my blog … http://sylviaellison.edublogs.org
  • Comment on Twitter … @SylviaEllison, #30Goals

Goal #6 … Invite Them In!

Goal 6: Invite Them In #30Goals

As teachers it is easy to succumb to the “lone-ranger syndrome.”  We have a tendency to get so caught in our curriculum and students, that we isolate ourselves in our classrooms.

This goal focuses on our need to invite people into our classroom – administrators, parents, and colleagues.  When we “invite them in,” we are making our classrooms transparent; we are saying that not only whom we teach is important, but also what we have them learn is relevant, truthful, and standards-based.  By sharing our classroom with other adults, we are ensuring that our time spent with students is of value.


“There is no persuasiveness more effectual than the transparency of a single heart, of a sincere life.”

by Joseph Barber Lightfoot

In high school, I am sure we have all experienced that conversation with a parent … “My child says that you’re not teaching … I’m not seeing any work from my child … How do I know that my child is learning …” Hopefully, we have answers for these questions at the time, but would it not be better if those questions did not need to be asked?  What if students blogged they’re learning? What if you posted student work (without names)?  What if you simply posted your daily agenda to Edline?  Would that not give parents and school personnel a better view of what is going on in your classroom.

I believe the greatest fear is that of being judged unworthy.  Yet if you are focusing on student learning, and if we are planning our lessons according to the standards, then what have we to fear?  Be bold!  Invite them in!Welcome-Sign


Short-term– Brainstorm ways to invite a teacher, parent, or administrator to see the learning taking place in your classroom. You can do this by publishing your students’ work online on a wiki, blog, or school website. You can Ustream a lesson. You can create a video with the kids and have a movie night where you invite the staff and parents to watch the class videos while eating snacks!

Long-term– In what ways can you be more transparent? How can you make your instruction transparent to others at least once a week? Do you currently publish students’ work online or have your lesson plans available for the parents to see what is happening in the classroom?


Evelyn Azbell, who writes for the Parent Educator Connection Blog, will be listing the blogs of those completing the challenges. You can find her on Twitter, @CESA9_12WSPEI.


This week, invite a teacher, parent, or administrator to see the learning taking place in your classroom.


  • Reflect on an observation you have had or are going to have … how can you use that preparation to invite others into your classroom.
  • Consider working with a reading coach to offer a Demonstration Classroom.
  • Provide a reflection that shares how you applied this goal.
  • Comment on my blog … http://sylviaellison.edublogs.org
  • Comment on Twitter … @SylviaEllison, #30Goals

Goal #5 … Reflect, Step Back, Act

Goal #5 … Reflect, Step Back, Act

Wow!  What a great goal to end this week with!


“Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.”

by Peter F. Drucker

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

by Larry Elder

In teaching, we have so many responsibilities.  We teach, we manage, we grade, we plan … we inspire, we create, we assess, we alleviate fears, we build dreams, we set goals, and so much more.  On good days, we are able to sigh and believe that “all is right with the world.”  Yet there are times when we come to the end of the day, and we think … what did I accomplish today?  What did I do?  Why did my classes and/or lessons feel so tiring, boring, frustrating, upseting, stressful?

No matter how your week, day, class as been, it is important to take time to reflect, step back, and act.  Reflect on what actually happened – more than what you feel happened.  Sometimes our feelings can cloud reality.  So when we step back, we are actually getting a more realistic perspective of what occurred. (i.e., OK, it wasn’t the class that was bad, it was 2 students who decided to … , or it wasn’t the week that was bad, just my 3rd period today was an issue.)  Once this perspective is in place, then we can act.  We can plan for better, more engaging lessons; we can establish clearer criteria for behavior; or we can make connections or find resources to help improve our craft.

So … what can we do?  What should we do?

Short-term– Reflect on your best and worst lesson this week or last semester, then share this reflection. Want to go the extra mile? Read comments on the blog and respond to some of the questions and struggles of others in our community!

Long-term– Try recording a lesson live and having a colleague evaluate it. Also, develop a routine to take one day to reflect on your communication with your colleagues, students’ parents, or administrators!


Video record one lesson this year and invite a colleague to evaluate you!


  • Reflect on your best and worst lesson this week or last semester then share this reflection.
  • Work with a colleague to “reflect, step back, and act” on concerns and struggles of teachers or students in your community
  • Provide a reflection – not specific details – that shares how you applied this goal.
  • Comment on my blog … http://sylviaellison.edublogs.org
  • Comment on Twitter … @SylviaEllison, #30Goals