Posts Tagged ‘Teachers’

Change? What kind of change will you make?

Monday, January 19th, 2009
What kind of change will you make?

What kind of change will you make?


Change is never easy, in matter of fact it is one of the hardest things to do.   In order for someone to truly change, they need to be motivated.  But motivated by what?

That’s my challenge today!  Is it possible for me to make others think about what changes they need to make in their own life?  I guess I first need to find a focus and that focus will be for teacher.  It doesn’t matter if you have been teaching for 1 year and are still new to the profession or if you are a 30 year veteran who is about to retire. 

Front of the Class reminded me that teachers can change!  After the movie aired on CBS, I received thousands of emails.  Many of them were from teachers saying “Thank You” for reminding them the impact they have on children in the classroom.  Many teachers like me get so caught up in the paperwork, politics, parent needs, and the curriculum that we sometimes forget why were became teachers.  It is for the children!  Students must come first!

I know I wanted to be that teacher that I never had.  I wanted to make a difference in our schools and help all students believe in themselves and help them learn to the best they can be.  But often times we may lose perspective because of high stakes testing during this age of accountability.  I’m standing up now and reminding teachers not to forget why they became a teacher.

I also remind teachers that it is never too late to change the way you work in your classroom.  Don’t be afraid of change, befriend change!  Change can be one of the best things you can do for your students.  As teachers, we must be able to change our instruction in the classroom as education changes in society.  As the standards change and become more rigorous, so must our teaching practices. 

If I was truly sick and had cancer or a chronic disease, would I want my doctor to treat me the same way they treated patients 25 years ago.  NO, NO, NO!  I would want the latest and greatest that medicine has to offer.  Just like the medical field, the education field is changing too.  Research has been going on to show how kids learn best and it is important to follow the research in order to give our student the best education has to offer.

Many viewers and reader of my story said Front of the Class reminded them that they need to be a little more patient, a little more aware of what life is like for kids who have challenges in the classroom.  Some challenges can be seen by others, but many challenges are not.  As teachers, we must learn to communicate with our students and listen to their voice.  We need to hear how they learn best.  We need to know what they need in the classroom.  We need to see that maybe, it is not the child who needs to change, but it is us as teachers who need to do the changing.

I remember hearing once that when I teach in my classroom, only 1/3 of my class learns the same way I do.  Most teachers teach the same way they learn. That means we are probably not hitting 2/3 of our class in the most effective way.  So, what changes do we as teachers need to make?

  1. Listen
  2. Listen
  3. Listen

Listen to everyone. Listen to the researchers. Listen to moms.  Listen to the dads.  Listen to administrators.  Listen to the new teachers.  Listen to the veteran teachers. Listen to my story where I share with others what it was like to grow up being different and all I wanted was to be treated like everyone else.  Listen to your students.  Because that is who we are here for. 

In the “real” world, you would listen to your clients.  If you didn’t, they may fire you or just leave and go somewhere else.  They may actually give you some sort of advice that would help you in the field or help themselves.  In the field of education we need to listen to our students or else we will fail them.  It is our job as teachers to make a difference in the lives of every single student we work with.  What better way to make a positive change in the life of a child then to just sit back one day and listen.

What changes will you make this year?  Will you make these changes for one day or for the rest of your career?  I guess it all depends if you are listening to your students.

Ask Brad: What is the first thing you would tell an aspiring teacher?

Friday, December 26th, 2008


Today I was reading an email from a girl who is studying to be a teacher. She asked me “What advice can you give me?” and all these ideas came to my head. So, I decided to BLOG about it and share it with the world.

Here is my list of things I would tell aspiring teachers (no particular order):

  1. PASSION – The best teachers teach from the heart.  They do it because they love it, not because they get a few months off during the school year.
  2. PROMOTE POSITIVE ATTITUDES– This is important to do to the students, parents and the teachers in your school.  We are all wanting the same thing, and that is whatever is best for the student.  We are all on the same team so let’s look at the positive side of things!
  3. NEVER GIVE UP ON A CHILD– Why are you a teacher?  I often believe we are teachers to be there for those kids that have nobody else fighting for them.  Some kids have no voice, or don’t know how to speak up, or in some cases don’t really know what to say or what their needs are.  As teachers, we must always believe that our students can learn and can be successful.
  4. DON’T FORGET THE POWER OF ONE– That all is takes is for one teacher to make a difference in the life of a child.  So, what do I tell you people aspiring to be teachers?  Don’t pass the buck!  You need to be that ONE teacher to make a difference in the life of that kid!
  5. THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX– It is so easy on a tough day to go back and teach students the way we might have been taught: to open the book to page 101 and do problems 1-30 and when they are done bring their answers to the teacher to check them.  NO! Best practice shows that there are better ways to teach students then the way we learned years ago.  Be hands on, give kids real life experiences, do problem solving, build a community with your class, engage those kids to work together on authentic work.  Don’t just give worksheets in elementary school and don’t just give lectures in high school.  Be original and go teach the way you might have wanted to be taught.  It’s ok to have your students color outside the lines every now and then!
  6. FOCUS ON STUDENT’S STRENGTHS AND NOT THEIR WEAKNESSES– All parents know the things that their children do bad.  You don’t need to remind them every single day.  What if that was your child?  Wouldn’t you want to know the good things your child does each day?  It might not be easy, but it is your job as a teacher to dig deep, maybe deeper than you ever have before, and find that child’s strength and allow them to shine just like your straight A students.
  7. COMMUNICATION– I remind you to always communicate, and I’m not just talking about communicating with the parents.  Sometimes you need to get down on your hands and knees and communicate with the child.  Ask them what you need to do to help them be a better learner?  Ask them why they are having difficulties in class?  Sometimes it is not the student who has the issue, it could be you?  Just be willing to listen and have an open mind to try something new to help some of your students.  Remember- your learning style might not be the same as their learning style? Change could be good for the entire class?
  8. BE YOURSELF– Bring the great things about you to the class.  For me, being a male in elementary education was different because it doesn’t happen often.  I brought my love of sports to the classroom.  My feeling was I could introduce my students to many things in one year that they might not have for the next ten years.  Bring your talents to the class, you will have some kids who will follow your footsteps.
  9. BE A LIFE LONG LEARNER– Your learning will not stop once you graduate and get your first job.  In matter of fact, your true learning has just begun!  Continue doing staff development in your area and take classes to learn the latest and greatest.  Form professional book groups at your school and read about the same topic of Reader’s Workshop or How to Engage Your Students More. Then have conversations and improve your teaching abilities.  Go to conferences and listen to speakers in the field of education.  Continue learning technology just to keep up.  And 100% go to grad school and get another degree, it will only make you a better teacher.
  10. READ AND WATCH FRONT OF THE CLASS– Of course I was going to add this to the list.  Not because I say so, but because the amount of emails I’ve received since the movie aired on CBS told me this needs to happen.  I truly believe that both teachers and students can become better people after learning about my story.  I know book groups are forming and many schools are showing Front of the Class to their students.  The conversation that will happen afterwards will be a powerful lesson that everyone can learn from.  I’m currently working on a “Teachers Guide” to go along with the movie to focus on Character Education words that go with the movie. Should be ready soon.

What would you tell aspiring teachers as they enter the classroom?

Movie Question: Can teachers show Front of the Class in their classrooms?

Friday, December 12th, 2008
Jimmy Wolk in the Classroom

Jimmy Wolk in the Classroom

It is my hope that teachers will use Front of the Class to share my story with their students. Between the bullying that takes place to Brad saying “I just want to be treated like everyone else” their are many lessons to look at with Brad Cohen’s story. So many Character Education words come to mind that were a central theme in this story.

1) Positive Attitude
2) Perseverance
3) Passion
4) Honesty
5) Acceptance
6) Self Control
7) Respect for Others
8 ) Kindness
9) Accountability
10) Courage
11) Courtesy
12) Tolerance
13) Acceptance
14) Persistence
15) Self-respect
16) Motivation
17) Patience
18) Determination
19) Self-reliance
20) Self-confidence

ATTENTION TEACHERS and EDUCATORS and PARENTS: What lessons would you teach in the classroom after you show Front of the Class to your students? What conversations took place after parents and children watched the movie together?

I’d love to collect your thoughts so I can create a “Teacher Guide” to distribute to go along with the movie for when classrooms and families watch the movie. PLEASE SHARE!

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"Brad Cohen is a walking billboard for the idea of living positively. He is like a cold drink on a hot day--refreshing, energizing, and likely to put a smile on your face."
Tim Shriver - Chairman of Special Olympics

"I have observed the magic of Brad Cohen in the classroom. He has turned Tourette Syndrome into an asset, and his life into inspiration."
Senator Johnny Isakson, Georgia

"Brad Cohen's story is a triumph of hope, determination, will and relentless good humor."
Peter J. Hollenbeck, Ph.D., Professor and
Associate Head of Biological Sciences,
Purdue University

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