Making the Most of 2017 Understanding Structure in the Classroom and Preparing for Years Ahead

1. Consider others in the learning process.
A. The Legality

California EdCode requires that students are respectful toward other students and authority within the classroom environment, and requires that students adhere to authority and do not interfere with or disrupt the full opportunity for others to be successful in learning. Such behavior that causes disruptions inconsistent with a positive learning environment include excessive talking, inappropriate language, modals of defiance (including blatant complaining), arguments, bullying or being rude toward other students, physical distractions, and failure to comply with given instructions.

B. The Reward

Choosing to be selfless and consider others above ourselves provides "a real sense of satisfaction and abiding happiness . . . [and] is [itself] its own reward" (Pettinger 1). Indeed, according to Tejvan Pettinger, an endurance cyclist, economics teacher, and humanitarian, selflessness helps us to conquer crippling pride (which can often lead to downfalls), expands our minds' capacities for joy, opens up easier opportunities for meaningful friendships and belonging, and makes us more attractive and desirable by others. More insight on this subject can be read about in the button link below.

c. The Practicality

Specifically within the classroom, choosing selflessness can be manifested in various ways. Some examples include remaining quiet during class instruction (so that more of the lesson can be delivered, and less confusion will be faced at home or even during the lesson); choosing not to blurt out (even if academic); listening to music at a volume which cannot be heard by others; choosing not to waste work time with long, social conversations via electronic media or person-to-person, but diligently working, and quietly assisting others during work time; keeping classroom language clean, polite, and distinct from more colloquial language (such as profanity) that might used outside of the educational environment; waiting patiently for help if the instructor is working with another student; attempting to self-problem-solve before help is received; maintaining the appearance of positivity through posture, compliance, respect, and cheerfulness; and learning to understand the opinions of those different than us.

2. Be prepared.
A. Have materials out and ready as or before the bell rings.

Directing your attention to the TV (or whiteboard if technology glitches) will orient you as to what you need to begin class. Because we often begin with a warm-up or Blast, your iPad is generally required to be on and ready to use in the appropriate app when class begins. You should also close out of other apps and websites not being used, saving battery life on your iPad, and allowing you to make the most of your time in class--freeing up after school time the less you are distracted in class. You should also get out headphones (which can be used when the teacher is not instructing, unless you are instructed otherwise), find the music you wish to listen to (and not fish around for music during class work time), stylus pens if you use them, and back-up material (blank paper and pen/pencil) if your iPad is minimally charged.

B. Make the most of your break times before class begins.

This includes using the restroom and filling up water bottles, so that class time is not wasted. I will not recreate special lessons for you just because you spend time out of class, so avoid leaving class (or finding opportunities, discipline-wise to be removed from class) if at all possible. You are mature young adults, know your bodies well, and can take care of necessary business between classes.

C. Charge your iPad Properly and be ready for proper use.

Our iPads are our textbooks and writing materials, and thus, should be treated as such. In old-school times, detentions were received for not bringing textbooks to class in order to emphasize the importance of having materials ready for learning in class. The same is true with your iPads--they are to be properly charged and ready for use.

Properly charged means that iPads should be fully charged in the morning time, and approximately 35% by 4th period, in order to last through classes. As long as you keep open apps and websites to a minimum, avoid battery-draining avenues (like VPNs) and do not utilize your iPads for distracting purposes, even older iPad batteries are built to last this long when in use in every class.

iPad focused means that only the content at hand should be opened, and websites and apps needed for other classes be bookmarked or saved, but closed. Bluetooth should always remain on for easier teacher navigation and for pushing out focus and lessons as the Apple Classroom becomes integrated into our technology tools.

Proper use means that your iPad is treated respectfully as an academic tool. You are not to leave your iPad in precarious places where it might easily be damaged (such as the floor), or lost (unattended), and your iPad should not be spun like a toy. You are responsible for severe damage to your iPad, keeping in mind that normal wear and tear and storage in your backpack generally only results in minor crack damage to the corners of your iPads.

I recommend the following steps to assure that your iPads are ready for use:

  1. Find the best time for you to charge your iPad. It takes about half an hour, on average, to get a 15% charge, so overnight might be needed, or a little in the evening or morning might also work.
  2. Set a reminder on your personal device (i.e. phone) to charge your iPad if needed.
  3. Be close to the expected charged percentage per class: 1st period @ 80-100%, 2nd period @ 60-80%, 3rd period @ 40-60%, 4th period @30-40%. Sitting next to a charger to be able to work does not count as being charged to this percentage.
  4. Understand the class and school-wide consequences (beginning afresh this semester) for uncharged or non-present iPads (even if you sit next to a charger to charge). In addition to all work re-created and completed on blank paper (and graded additionally, for neatness/ thoroughness), the expected sequence of steps will ensue: 1-2 verbal warnings, a 30-minute detention (or equivalent), an hour detention (or equivalent), a 2-hour detention (or equivalent), a Saturday school, etc. Personal devices will not be permitted for use with the exception of music-listening while stowed away, this semester.
  5. Come into class and look to the TV or whiteboard for instructions--they will direct you to StudySync, Google Docs,, or iPads put away. Clear out other apps and sites not needed for this class.
  6. When iPads are in the "down" position, you may turn on airplane mode to preserve battery.
  7. Respond compliantly when confronted with iPad misuse.
D. The Rationale

When you come prepared to class, more learning and work opportunities will be provided in class, and, as a general rule, a little less homework will have to be assigned as we move through curriculum.

With a prepared mindset and with minimal distractions, your brain will better be able to process and store the information you are currently learning, and less confusion and frustration will be felt at home.

You will allow the environment to be pleasant and productive for others, thereby practicing selflessness.

Using your school-issued device properly allows for equity, fairness, increased focus and clarity on a screen in front of you, and minimizes displeasure from other students around you.

E. The natural Rewards and Consequences

As you come prepared to class each day, you will receive the positive focus, respect, and attention you are looking for, individual positive feedback, the ability to use personal devices for music (a privilege that may be taken away temporarily on a personal basis), reduction in homework, clarity of assignments, competition amongst classes for the most focus, and positive recognition from administration and guest teachers, to name just a few.

Unfortunately, when you are not prepared, you may lose the privilege of the use of your own personal devices, your homework load may increase, lessons may have to be re-taught and double-the-time wasted, the lesson of preparedness may need to be retaught and practiced, detentions (the school-wide consequence) may accrue, and you may lose points on your assignments (particularly in neatness) as you hand-write them before turning them in.

3. Understand classroom expectations, procedures, and norms.
A. Remain in assigned seats

It is expected that you remain in your assigned seats, especially when I am instructing or other students are adding to our academic discussions. This is not the time to grab Kleenex, sharpen a pencil, throw away trash, or physically approach me with questions. Additionally, the floor is not an option, even if you have an uncharged iPad.

When individual classwork time begins, you are free to grab materials (pencils, paper, Kleenex, a pencil sharpener), throw away trash (by getting up and moving to a trash can, not tossing across the room), patiently raise your hand for questions or quietly ask others for help.

You are to return quickly and non-distractedly to your assigned seat, or consequences may ensue for non-compliance.

Remaining in your seats while instruction is given frees the teacher from distractions (and allows him or her the best possibility of delivering the clearest lessons), and allows you and others the best opportunities to learn effectively, minimizing frustrations in learning later. Additionally, if, as a class, you are able to remain distraction-free and remain in your assigned seats, the last five minutes you will be allowed to choose your own seats before being dismissed. Be proud that you can promote focus positively by such small steps!

B. Contribute to Class Discussions and Participate.

When class discussions opportunities are provided, you are expected to participate. This includes activity listening to what others have to say (by making eye-contact, and by not working on work, not playing on your iPad or phone, and not talking with others), waiting to raise your hand until someone else is done talking, being patient and kind if time does not permit the instructor or discussion leader to call upon everyone, and, if possible, attempting to make engaging and productive verbal contributions yourself.

New this semester will be a weekly participation grade, opened in the Gradebook at the beginning of the week, and published at the end. Your ability to participate well and to avoid classroom distractions will be noted in this grade.

Ultimately, as long as you are actively engaged in the learning process, your grade will be helped through this extra "assignment" in your Gradebook. However, it can easily be hindered if you do not adhere to expectations, or are sent outside, to another classroom, or to the office and lose your opportunity to participate.

C. Maintain a Positive Demeanor and Positive verbal and non-verbal language.

We all have bad days, and, unfortunately, these are inevitable. However, you can still choose to keep a pleasant demeanor (simply, sometimes, by just staying quiet) so that others around you are not effected or brought down. With this in mind, it is expected that you:

  1. Appear positive. Be compliant and respectful of others, including peers and the teacher, no matter what.
  2. Use positive, appropriate language. Refrain from put-downs or profanity (which is actually suspendable if habitual via Edcode). Always seek opportunities to build others up, to increase your chances of receiving positive attention, help from the teacher, and respectability by your peers.
  3. Remember your body language. Sometimes you don't have to say anything to still communicate positively or negatively. Positive body language includes examples like smiling, nodding your head, keeping your face directed toward those who are talking, and sitting up straight. Negative body language includes such things as rolling eyes, heavy slouching, angry facial expressions, and (in juvenile cases) the sticking out of tongue--usually reserved for the kindergarten playgrounds. Body language is still language, and will receive the same positive reception if done well or consequences if performed negatively.
D. Maintain a physically clean classroom.

This should go without saying, but this means that you take pride and ownership of your specific work area. Even if trash does not belong to you, pick it up so that the students in the next class will have the chance to have a more positive, clean classroom. Straighten desks by lining them up with those in front of and behind you before you go, and moving desks away from the window (if you sit close to the window), so that others are not annoyed by the close proximity of the window shades. Do you part to go one step ahead and show kindness toward those who will come next in the next class period, even if we do not always have "designated" time to clean up.

4. Display academic integrity.
A. Understand the PRIVILEGE you have.

Your education is protected, privileged, and free. Although it may seem like an overdone saying, you truly are lucky to live in a first-world country in which the primary mode of excellent education is freely given to you. Additionally, because of Edcode, you and your education are protected to assure your best accommodations, distraction-free learning, academic and social success within school, and the ability to be productive in the work-force post-school. Finally, Summerville, in a rural community, is one of the best public schools you can be at (and I've been at several to know!). Less than 1/3 of the world's region is considered "first-world" with such educational privileges, and many will not afford the opportunities you are given to make the most of your education--both as students and responsible, ethical citizens--and be successful. Take advantage to reap these benefits!!!!!

Blue-1st world (with the most academic freedom and privileges), Red-2nd world, Green-3rd world (with education, many times, seen as a luxury)
B. Complete academic work to the best of your ability.

In truth, only you know what you are truly capable of. Academics may come easy, and you may glide by with little work--which does not benefit you greatly. Academics may be a challenge, and it may take sweat and a few tears to muster a C--yet this is your best, and you should rejoice! Always aim to fully understand material and truly wrestle and struggle with it. A common sports phrase is that "pain is weakness leaving the body." The same is true for academics. Without some type of struggle, or exercise of your cranial matter, you will not become sharper, more adaptable thinkers, able to be as successful as possible in this world. Find out what your mind is capable of by constantly challenging yourself to think just a little harder or do just a little more. And avoid simply copying the answers and work from others in the name of "collaborative work."

Additionally, if you did not complete an assignment on time, remember your options: If you are on a 504 or IEP plan, you should pre-approve the opportunity to get extended time (well before the date the assignment is due) and, when turning it in hard copy, write "Soto" or "Hightower" on your paper to remind me. If you were absent, print your work hard copy and write "absent" with the specified date of your absence so that I can verify. And, if you did not complete the work on time, without being absent, and without meeting criteria for a pre-approval of an extension, write "late" and email me for one additional assignment to complete in order to receive half credit on the original assignment. Both of these assignments should be turned in together, hard copy. For these three circumstances, your zeroes will be changed accordingly (full credit for pre-approved time or absences, and half credit for late work), but understand that this is not instant, and may done closer to the end of the grading period.

I would also recommend staying on top of all work, even if you have the ability to receive a few extensions, and even if you have absences, as the more you fall into the habit of turning work in late, the more you will get behind, and the more overwhelmed, frustrated, stressed out, and discouraged you will be. I don't want this for you! Additionally, this will prevent unwanted temporary 0s in a time in which grades are automatically viewed online by you and your family.

C. Avoid the temptation of Plagiarism

This goes for all classes, whether it be a chemistry equation, a series of math problems, or an academic writing piece. Choosing to borrow work from another and claim it as your own is technically thievery (and the same act protected by legal copyright laws in the real world as you get older), and comes with its own set of consequences (a 0 on the assignment, no chance to re-do if it is the final draft for me, a Saturday School, and parents and all teachers notified). StudySync and both have plagiarism checks, and plagiarism should be avoided at all costs. Even a series of sentences copied word for word will result in the same consequences, and consequences become even more severe for the same infractions (including 0s for the entire semester course, and academic probation to possibly be removed from school) in higher educational years. Avoid lending your paper to others to "help" them have a model. I provide models for you. If your paper seems to be copied, even if you did not intend it to be, you are liable to the same consequences. Instead, come side-by-side and help your peer personally, by editing or reviewing their paper.

D. Balance asking for help and becoming self-sufficient

Remember that you yourself are sometimes your own best, creative tool and help. With one teacher to 20-35 students each class, and a 1 to 200+ ratio overall, it is not always possible to receive individualized tutoring sessions, but you can allow more opportunities for such meaningful one-on-one teacher help if you first determine what you can do for yourself. For instance, if you are absent for a few days, or even just have missed a few minutes of class, consult my website, examine and read through material we are working on, and (while the teacher is not talking) quietly ask a fellow peer who was present for clarity before immediately asking or e-mailing the teacher.

Some examples of things you should do for yourself include:

  1. Discovering how to sign in to and use technology and websites. You are capable of doing this on your own when it comes to Instagram, Snapchat, online gaming, and the like. You are also capable of following the [often] simpler process of doing this (including recovering passwords, or re-creating accounts if needed) for academic platforms. Avoid using technology as an excuse. Problem-solve with academic technology just as much as you might social media, gaming, or other online/app based programs for your personal use.
  2. Discovering work when you were absent or missed moments of class. Getting caught up is your responsibility. Before seeking out the teacher, make sure that you have examined and read through the entire class agenda and resources on my website, and have consulted a few responsible peers for guidance. Then, remember to print the work out hard copy, write "absent on [specified date]" on it (to avoid late points), and turn it in. Try to minimize absences and time away from class if possible.
  3. Completing assignments whose processes are spelled out in written directions. Avoid asking questions that can be directly answered by you simply reading directions. :) You will save your own pride by doing this.
  4. Checking examples of work and models of writing first before asking "how do I do this?" This will often times help provide the guidance you need to get started, even if you have to struggle through the process a little.
  5. Speaking of struggling, struggle a little first. By attempting an assignment, instead of merely asking for it to be completely re-taught, you allow yourself the ability to gather very specific, focused questions about where you need help. This will help the help time go much quicker, allow you better clarity on the assignment, and allow others the opportunity to receive help as well.
  6. When asking questions, make sure to be very focused and specific. Please don't email me asking "How do I do the assignment?" Since I teach multiple subjects and lessons throughout the day, remind me what period you are in, remind me of the assignment, and then ask a very specific, focused question about the assignment. By doing this, this frees my evening time up to maintain a healthy life balance, a happier, more rested demeanor for you, and the best ability and time to create meaningful, un-rushed lessons.
  7. Be patient. I often have multiple emails to answer in the evenings, and students to teach. I will do my best to respond efficiently to each one of you with the best fairness I see possible. However, it is not fair to respond first to the one whose hand waves like a dog wagging his tail and makes verbal begging grunts, if others have been waiting even longer. Make sure to follow steps 1-6 first, in order to be considerate to others.
E. The Reward

As you complete your own work to the best of your ability, you will see that you gain confidence and can continue to improve your skills. It indeed is much like developing your favorite sport, hobby, or even gaming skill. The harder you work in the midst of small struggles, the more you overcome such struggles and develop your own skills to problem-solve, the more confident, successful, and happy you will become!

5. Listen to instruction and accept correction.
A. Listen to Verbal Instruction

Specifically regarding academics, make sure to listen to instructions that I provide. Refrain from listening to your music or talking to others during this time, or blurting to disrupt the flow and clarity of the lesson. (Wait until I am done speaking to raise your hand for questions/ comments.) The more that instructions are repeated unnecessarily, the more time is lost on getting your own work done in class. Often, important directions will also be written down (on my website, or on the whiteboard), but in case they are not, and for the respect of all different kinds of learners, always listen when instructions are being given.

I get it. You aren't perfect human robots, and, although you try your best, you (just as I) will have occasional lapsing moments that need changing. Regarding correction for distractions or behavior that is less than optimal, quietly accept verbal correction first. Simply change your behavior when asked and consistently keep that positive change through the rest of the class period and each class thereafter. You might not be able to muster a giddy smile doing so (especially if your acting out is caused by outside circumstances not involving the classroom), but your ability to make the effort to change speaks wonders. If circumstances permit, I will do my best to correct you quietly so as not to embarrass you, and, if time permits, provide a rationale of correction. However, my number one priority is to assure that the class maintains focus and positivity for all; thus one-on-one conferences of correction, although ideal, are not always possible. Accept correction before it escalates into a bigger problem, resulting in more consequences for you and a negative effect on the learning environment for others. Finally, if you have an issue with correction, or need to discuss some challenges you are having outside of class that may be contributing to the classroom environment, you are welcome to briefly discuss this with me after class, and if more time is needed and/or there is too much emotion to approach calmly, on appointed lunch periods, which we can arrange together. Arguing lowers your ethos, which means I will be less likely to show grace to you in your infractions. Always seek to be accepting of correction and strive to be polite, remembering the ultimate cause--that others legally deserve the right to a focused classroom learning environment. Each teacher in each class has the right to decide exactly what that "focus" looks like.

B. Accept consequences as a learning tool.

Consequences are not permanent. In fact, you start clean each day, and, although repetitive behavior over the courses of various days may result in further consequences, I will always start out optimistically expecting your best each and every day. Just because you made a mistake last class does not mean that I will expect you to make a mistake the next class--though my radar may be a little more in tune, in order to help you be the most successful that you can be. I might remind you of your behavior in a previous class, but also remind you that the new day is a new opportunity to display who you truly are--someone capable, powerful, strong, and respectful. I truly do appreciate each one of you, and always strive to remain optimistically hopeful on each fresh new start of each new day.

C. Accept that not all consequences are created equally.

Each of us are unique people, and learn in different ways. Just as some of you may be visual learners, others auditory, others kinesthetic, and others comfortable with reading text independently to learn, we all learn correction in different ways too. A simple verbal correction may work permanently for someone, someone else might need a detention, and still someone else will choose not to repeat behavior again if he or she is assigned campus clean up, a behavior correction essay, or thoughtful, relative project. I strive to get to know each of you individually and understand what works best for you. Ultimately, Summerville has implemented a school-wide, sequenced discipline policy (warning, 30-min detention, 1-hour detention, 2-hour detention, Saturday School, suspension), which may be a default as I work through correction of circumstances, but I reserve the right to be creative in discipline as I analyze what might be most effective for each individual. It is my purpose, however, to remain consistent in discipline, and to provide meaningful consequences that will help you not only to correct behavior in the moment, but keep a consistent pattern of improved positivity, and ultimately find yourselves on successful modes and paths in life--able to be confident and respected by others for your own positive behavior and uniqueness. Remember that just because someone receives a "smaller" or "larger" consequence (in your mind) for the same infraction, I strive to provide consequences that are equally effective for each individually involved.

6. Remember the reasons!
A. To become strong

The abilities you learn in high school--not just academic abilities, but social skills and expectations as well--will ultimately help you to be the best, most successful, most liked versions of yourself. We may verbally deny that we want these things, but all of us inwardly do. As you strive to be prepared, understand classroom structure and expectations, work with academic integrity, accept instruction and correction, and ultimately live to first look at the needs of others before your own, you become the adult version of you that you wish to see in other adults in your life right now. There is so much pride in this! So much sense of accomplishment! And, because there is some struggle along the way, so much satisfaction when you do well! This indeed is its own reward and privelige.

B. To Become self-sufficient

The academic "struggle", the striving for positive behavior (even if you find it a little challenge) help you to gain the best tool you need to succeed in life--self-sufficiency. You will learn how to problem-solve on your own, how to show self-control so that you are respected by others in your work environment and family, and how to come swiftly and kindly to the aid of others. Don't waste these training grounds of opportunity in your younger learning years, because you most likely will not receive instruction as rich and as meaningful later, when your mind is most moldable for positive change. The goal of education itself is to become lifelong learners, problem-solvers, and contributing members of society, bettering your own happiness and our future.

C. To have Major, empowering pride

I'm not talking conceit here. This doesn't mean that you put others down because you think you're better than everyone else. However, as you follow through with academic intregrity, humility in accepting instruction, responsibility, and kindness toward others, you begin to develop the deepest form of self-confidence and pride that you can have. You become classy. And you just accomplished something major--something you're totally capable of, but had to prove to yourselves. Not everyone in the world does this. If you need even one small anecdotal example of this, just think of some of the funky-looking, whiny, entitled shoppers of our local department store, otherwise dubbed famously online as the "people of Walmart" who dress in pink leotards, glare at other shoppers who accidentally bump into them with shopping carts, and return items after using them, lying and claiming they malfunctioned, feeding off this and other systems with bossy, rude, vulgar language to get their own way.

Don't be "the people of Walmart."

Be the absolute best versions of yourself that you can be.

Created By
Melyndee Dewey

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