Why Cell Phones Should Be Allowed in Schools

Person with backpack looking down at a cell phone, image used for Robert Peters blog on whether or not cell phones should be used in school

Should cell phones be allowed in schools? This question has existed for almost as long as cell phones have been around. Many schools outright ban the technology and tell students not to use their phones at all during the school day. While many districts have relaxed this stance, there is still the question of whether or not students should be allowed to use cell phones during class. Many argue that there are great benefits to using phones and various apps can be used that enhance the learning experience. Others argue that the distraction of using phones outweighs any benefits and there are no ways to monitor what students are doing on their phones. Here are some of the many benefits to allowing students to use cell phones for educational reasons and I think these outweigh any potential issues.

Educational apps

The largest benefit of using phones in class is that students can download educational apps or look up information while working on a project. Students can also take pictures to send to other classmates or to reference later or even video chat with an absent student. There are many apps available for specific subjects that serve as study aids, such as making flashcards or learning a language. Even if you don’t want to use cell phones in your classroom, educate students about apps they can use on their own to facilitate deeper learning.

Students feel less rebellious

When students are told that under no circumstances are they allowed to use their phones, it often leads to rebellion and resentful feelings. While you should hold your position of authority and not give in to students’ whims, you can certainly allow them some time to use their phone which makes for more satisfied students.

Useful for emergencies

Whether or not you let students use their cell phones in class, it’s incredibly helpful to have them at school. Students can easily contact their parents if an emergency arises or reach out for help. If there’s an emergency at home, parents can reach their children through a simple call or text. Let your students know that if there is a reason they must use their phone, it’s okay to let you know there’s an emergency.

Preparation for the real world

Students certainly change between their teenage years and when they enter the workforce, but they’ll still have cell phones. For many jobs, you’re able (and often encouraged) to use your phone whenever and can check it as often as you like. It’s important that students learn self control and do not always have to check their phones, but also know how to utilize it in ways that benefit their current task, whether in the classroom or the workplace.

How to avoid issues

Even though I believe cell phones should be utilized in the classroom, there are certainly risks, such as students becoming too distracted. Experiment by only allowing phones out during a certain portion of class and require that students use them for the task at hand. Make sure they know if they’re not using their phones to further class, you’ll stop allowing them to have their phones out at all. Ultimately, it’s up to you if you want to allow students to use cell phones in your class and how you plan to monitor the use of them.

6 Ways to Teach Students Professional Skills

Young woman sitting at a desk looking bored, wearing a blazer, image used for Robert Peters blog about teaching students professionalism

We often see articles about developing professionalism in teachers and how important it is to conduct yourself in a professional manner. Cultivating professionalism in teachers is incredibly important, but so is teaching students the value of professionalism. Many students likely do not understand what professionalism is and haven’t ever thought of cultivating it. Professionalism is learned once students begin looking for jobs after finishing school, which can lead to significant amounts of stress and a sense of unpreparedness for the students. Here are some ways teachers can teach their students professional skills and prepare them for life after school.

Do a resume workshop together

Depending how old your students are, it might be the perfect time in their lives to work on a resume with them. Most students are not taught how to craft an attractive resume and resort to learning this skill on their own from conducting online research. Simply taking one or two days over the course of the year to work on a resume with them can leave them with something tangible they’ll benefit from later on in life. Remind them to regularly update it and note any new formatting guidelines.

Have students conduct mock interviews

Your students might not be excited about this prospect, but if you think it could benefit them, hold some mock interviews. Consider starting a professional development club and offer after school meetings for interested students to work on their interviewing skills. Create lists of questions for students to ask each other or even be the interviewer yourself. Give students feedback on their answers and how they can do even better.

Share your professional development

A huge part of being a teacher is participating in professional development, so share your journey and experiences. Tell students about opportunities you’ve had and even a time you messed up or some aspect of professionalism that you didn’t know for a long time. Students want to hear about your learning experiences and will likely connect more with you afterwards.

Work on time management techniques

A huge hurdle for many people is their time management skills. Few people have completely mastered time management, so consider taking time to offer tips to your students on how they can improve theirs. Advise them to use a planner or calendar, especially if your school gives them out at the beginning of the year. There are also plenty of smartphone apps or Google extensions for time management and productivity that students can take a look at.

Be a professional role model

One of the best steps you can take to teach your students professionalism is by practicing it yourself. Always remain professional and lead by example. Avoid losing your temper or becoming too close to students. Be professional toward coworkers and everyone else you work with so your students see what professionalism looks like.

Highlight important professional traits

If you feel like your students would be interested, consider purchasing books on etiquette or professionalism for the classroom. It’s likely that the school library has some as well. Teaching students from a young age how to properly conduct themselves in a professional setting and appear mature and confident can benefit them in all areas of their lives.

Understanding the Different Types of Learning in Your Classroom

Learning in the Classroom

As a teacher, you are bound to come across a variety of students in your classroom with different backgrounds, tastes, abilities, etc. Inevitably, you will also find that your students receive information differently. Being able to recognize these varying learning styles is so important because you don’t want to teach everyone the same way and you must be able to adapt the way you teach to accommodate everyone and give them the best chance at succeeding. Take a look at the different learning types in the classroom and best practices to work with them.

 

Visual Learning

Someone who is a visual learner best receives information when they can see it in front of them. They might ask for a demonstration to see how something is done before they feel comfortable to dive into it themselves. They learn best with the use of maps, charts, and diagrams to better understand what is presented before them. Here are some things to do when working with visual learners:

 

  • Using flowcharts, webs, and charts to organize information

 

  • Use highlighted or color-coded notes to relate material better

 

  • Write checklists for formulas and commonly misspelled words

 

Auditory Learning

These students learn best through listening whether it be from spoken word or various sounds and noises. Some of these students might be very musically talented, so they may sing, or play in the school band. While your lesson may not be based on music, there are still many ways to accommodate these learners so that they can also feel part of the lesson. Best practices when dealing with auditory learners include:

 

  • Strike up a conversation with the student about the particular lesson

 

  • While in class have the students recite the information by asking questions for students to answer out loud

 

  • Get creative and have them put the material to a tune or rhythm for them to go over with you later

 

Kinesthetic Learning

Kinesthetic learners are going to want a more hands-on and physical experience with the material. Simply put, they learn best by doing. They enjoy actively going through the motions and feel the material within their body. Unlike visual learners who want to see something before they give it a shot, kinesthetic learners will want to dive right in and pick things up as they go along. Some best practices for working with kinesthetic learners are:

 

  • Having them write down notes on paper while they listen to the lesson

 

  • Maybe dramatize different concepts and have the students move objects around to act it out for themselves

 

  • Use some body movement while explaining something such as finger snapping, foot tapping, or even just mouthing ideas.

 

Honorable Mentions: Social and Solitary Learners

There are also some types of learners that are not as common as the three listed above but are still worth being aware of. Social Learners are the ones who work great in group settings. They are the students who are active in the school participating in clubs and sports and have no problem working with others. Solitary Learners are students who take to themselves more often than not. They typically come off as shy because they aren’t quick to raise their hand to ask/answer a question. They will usually try to figure things out on their own before deciding to come to you for help.

The Importance of Reading for Education

A child sitting at a desk reading a book, image used for Robert Peters blog on education

Reading is one of the most basic parts of day-to-day life, from tasks for school to reading street signs to shopping to browsing the internet. No matter what kind of job you have, some kind of reading will be necessary. Countries with higher literacy rates are generally better off and the people are happier. Studies have shown that those who commit crimes are more likely to have a lower literacy rate. People who read for pleasure achieve greater success in life. There are plenty of reasons why reading is vital to education, whether a formal education or a more general one that applies to life. Students should be encouraged to read because it’ll benefit them in endless ways.

Improves all kinds of comprehension

Overall, reading improves a child’s comprehension skills. The more someone reads, the better they get at picking up on context clues and interpreting specific language and actions. These comprehension skills extend into the real world as well, along with other topics. With great comprehension skills comes success in school and life because you’re able to pick up on small cues that help you interpret a situation or event.

Reading is a part of life

Like I mentioned earlier, basically any career path someone pursues involves a certain amount of reading, even if it’s just to read instructions or training materials. In addition to your career, it’s necessary to be able to read when filling out forms, like taxes, a lease, or a contract for any kind of service. Without strong reading skills, you can end up with financial issues or miss an important deadline or opportunity.

Teaches empathy

Reading creates more empathetic individuals, especially readers of fiction. When people read fiction, areas of their brain respond to what characters experience as though they’re experiencing the events themselves. As people become more empathetic, it’s easier for them to relate to other people and connect with them, which leads to more open-minded individuals. Empathy is a trait people could use more of, so for this reason alone, we should encourage children to be reading.

Helps communication

Reading teaches students to communicate better with other people from all backgrounds of life. With significant amounts of reading comes a larger vocabulary and greater understanding of how to connect with other people, because of the example set in novels. Readers learn how to connect with other people and convey their thoughts and emotions.

Expands imagination

People who read a lot are generally more creative and have a stronger imagination. When you read fiction, you have to use your mind to picture what the world and characters look like and to visualize the action. This use of imagination spills over into other areas of your life and makes you a more creative individual with a strong imagination.

Learn something new

Reading is the best way to learn something new. Simply by reading any kind of book, you’re exposing yourself to a new story or theory. In a novel, you may learn more about an event or way of life, even if it’s fictional. However, there are also plenty of nonfiction books for you to read that will teach you about various different subjects or fun facts.

5 Ways to Involve Your Students in Philanthropy

Textbook open to a page that has a chapter titled "we care", image used for Robert Peters educator blog on how to get students involved with philanthropy

Philanthropy is very important to creating a better world, so it’s vital that we teach children the importance of helping others. While most schools push this mindset by teaching children not to bully one another and by periodically hosting fundraisers, there usually isn’t a lot of discussion about philanthropy, its importance, and how young people can get involved in meaningful ways. Young people spend so much of their time in the classroom, that it’s a great place to start teaching them to develop a philanthropic mindset. Here are some great ways you can help students pursue philanthropy.

Start a classroom project

While your school may participate in some kind of fundraiser or philanthropic event each year, it can be beneficial to do something within your classroom as well. Even if you’re just raising money to donate to a specific cause, you’re helping students get involved with philanthropy. However, it’s important to teach them that philanthropy isn’t just about donating money. Consider choosing a cause that lets you make something, such as cards for people in the hospital or an activity that raises money. If you can take your students somewhere to volunteer, definitely do it! It could be something like cleaning up a park or visiting the elderly, just make sure you meet any standards set by your school district for trips.

Teach a lesson on philanthropy

If you can’t actually do something with philanthropy, just teaching students about it can make an impact. Teach them the difference between philanthropy and charity, talk about the history of philanthropy and its prevalence in society today, discuss the ways philanthropy can significantly impact someone’s life; any of these topics can lead to rich discussions and learning experiences for students.

Plan a career day…with well-known philanthropists

Typically, career days involve local adults coming in to speak with students or students dressing up as the career they’d like to have. Consider adding a philanthropic twist to this traditional event by having students research well-known philanthropists and then give presentations on these individuals. You could also have local philanthropists visit your classroom and talk about how they’re involved with philanthropy and why they do it.

Get parents involved

Ultimately, the people who can influence your students the most to participate in philanthropy are their parents. Send home handouts with a list of ways children can get involved with philanthropy and also highlight the benefits, for students and those who are helped through philanthropies. If parents understand the importance of philanthropy, they’re more likely to continue encouraging students to pursue philanthropic endeavours.

Offer outside resources

Like sending a handout home to parents, giving students the resources they need to participate in philanthropy is incredibly helpful. Provide them with a list of suggestions on how they can participate in general philanthropy, like picking up trash or helping out other people in their daily lives. Also consider handing out information on local philanthropies, such as their locations and contact information along with a little blurb about what the organization does. Give students information about community volunteer days as well.

Keep Your Students Learning Over Summer Vacation with These Simple Steps

blue background with cartoon books lined up along the bottom, image used for Robert Peters blog on how to keep your students learning all summer long

With summer vacation coming up, teachers may feel concerned over whether their students will continue learning over the summer or forget everything they’ve learned by the beginning of next year. Students (and teachers alike) are looking forward to their summer vacation. They do not want to go to class anymore or have homework to do every night. They’re looking forward to the warm weather and having more free time. However, it’s also important that students continue learning over the summer. As an educator, this concern likely sits at the front of your mind, so here are some of the best ways you can encourage students to continue learning all summer long.

Create a summer reading list

You’re bound to have some students who love to read; encourage them to continue this hobby over the summer! Provide all of your students with a list of books to read over the summer; make sure to include fun ones that they’ll find interesting. If you have students in class again next year, offer incentives for reading books over the summer and writing a short summary of the book and their response to it. If you don’t have the same students, sometimes just providing them with a list of suggestions is enough to get them engaged.

Encourage writing

If you’ve noticed some of your students enjoy writing creatively, encourage them to keep that up over the summer. Consider providing each student with a notebook to take home for the summer and use to write down thoughts, stories, or events that happen over break. Tell them they should even jot down quotes or ideas they like so they can keep track of them.

Give them a list of summer events

Most school districts have some kind of events over the summer that allow students to keep learning and engage with teachers even when the school year isn’t in session. If your school doesn’t do these kinds of activities, suggest starting them or find nearby schools that do. The local library likely has summer events, so make students aware of those as well.

Introduce them to educational websites

There are lots of fun educational websites students can visit that’ll help them keep learning while letting them play games. Since it’s likely your students will be spending a lot of time online anyway, give them great resources they can use to further their knowledge. Sites like FreeRice.com help students learn and donate to a good cause.

Make sure they have library cards

Depending how old your students are or what district you work in, they may not have library cards. Provide them with the information on how to get a library card and encourage them to go after school one day or during the summer so they have access to books and other learning materials. If your school lets you, plan a trip to the nearest library and have each student sign up for their own card.

Get their parents involved!

As hard as you try to encourage continued learning in your students, your direct influence ends on the last day of class. Consider sending out an email or making phone calls to your students’ parents to let them know the importance of continued learning over the summer. Get a set of papers together with information on why it’s important students keep learning, how parents can help, and various resources to use. Most parents want their students to learn, so if you provide them with the materials, they can definitely help out.

Creative Ways to Encourage Students to Write

Notebook with blank page and two crumpled up pieces of paper on top of it with a pen, image used for Robert Peters blog on creative ways to motivate students to write

One of the most difficult challenges educators face is encouraging students to write. Whether it’s writing in class or at home, most students just do not enjoy the prospect of writing, especially if it’s for an assignment. However, writing is a vital skill for the real world and being able to communicate through writing is an incredibly valuable trait. Even if you can’t motivate students to write in class, but they do decide to write on topics unrelated to classwork, you’re helping their education because studies show that any form of writing can improve overall writing skill.

Use relevant writing prompts

Kids feel more motivated to write if they can relate to the prompt. If they are interested in the topic they’re writing about, they’ll enjoy the writing more. Make the topics about hobbies, local events, or their families and friends. When the topics are something they feel a connection to, your students will put more effort and detail into their writing and actually be interested in what they’re writing about. Depending how old the students are, you can have them debate issues they feel strongly about, such as a school dress code or local community issue.

Encourage them to share

For most students, they enjoy being able to share their work with one another, their teacher, or even their families. Encourage sharing because it’ll motivate them to write better and actually listen to the input they receive from others on their writing. However, if a student is really shy and reluctant to share, do not force them to read their writing out loud or show it to another student. Ask if you can see it and give them your feedback or even encourage them to write for themselves without sharing their work with others.

Teach them anyone can write

The problem most students face is that they do not believe they can actually be talented writers. They’ve either never been told their writing is good, believe it’s not something they can learn, or have never been given instruction on how to write. Give your students examples of great writers who met failure time and time again or teach them simple tricks to improve their writing.

Do not demand perfection

Writing can be daunting for students because they believe what they write should be flawless for it to be considered “good.” Teach your students it’s okay to make mistakes and they can always ask for advice or input on their writing. If their grammar or plot development isn’t perfect, gently offer them advice on how to improve, but also look for aspects to compliment so they don’t feel discouraged.

Celebrate their writing

Any student likes compliments and receiving positive attention. Find something in each student’s work to celebrate and show them that they’re making progress. It’s important to offer constructive feedback, but it’s also vital that you avoid giving a student the impression their writing is bad and cannot be improved.
Check out even more ways to inspire students in their writing!

Rural Schools Consider Switching to a 4-Day School Week

Image of blank notebook with pencil, small pencil sharpener, and shavings on the sheets. Used for Robert Peters blog about rural school considering switch to a 4-day school week.

Recently, rural schools across the country have begun switching to a 4-day school week. It’s unclear whether or not reducing the days students spend in school is beneficial in the long run; there hasn’t been enough time for schools using this type of school week to show a clear outcome. Right now, the schools making the switch are all rural schools located in the Midwest; 88 districts in Colorado, 43 in Idaho, 30 in Oregon, and nearly half of the districts in Montana. The administrators of these schools believe that this change will benefit the districts in various ways, but that hypothesis remains to be determined.

How does it work?

The plan for the 4-day school week looks like this: students spend slightly more time at school each day, which can be anywhere between 30 and 90 minutes, then they use Friday for more extracurricular or family activities. School districts originally thought that cutting a day from the school week would lead to lower costs, but that idea has been mostly disproven. A main reason districts are attempting the change is because they lack funding and attention from the federal and state governments. Rural areas are scrambling for ways to cut costs and a 4-day school week seems like the best solution. Many districts made the switch on a trial basis, but the community and students view it as a permanent change; it’ll be challenging to move back to a 5-day school week after everyone has adjusted to only four days.

What are the benefits?

Some studies have also shown positive results, particularly regarding children’s academic performance and cutting costs for some districts. Some school districts have seen significant changes regarding students’ scores. The main concern is saving money and many report that moving to a 4-day week allowed them to reach this goal. Another benefit of a 4-day school week comes from families having more time to spend with their children and also more time to run errands and take children to doctor’s appointments or on vacations, without pulling them out of school.

What are the drawbacks?
Though many positive studies exist, for some districts, there was not a noticeable difference in academic performance or financial savings for other schools. The change hasn’t necessarily been detrimental to these two factors, but it hurts the community in other ways. While most students and school employees like the idea of a 4-day school week, many parents are against it. Families with two working parents must find someone to watch their children on their new day off, which costs more money. Children may not have food or heat at home and they have one less day they can rely on a meal and warm environment, where they’re being nurtured. The switch works for a subset of families and can be extremely beneficial to them, but it’s also important that other families who don’t have the means to provide childcare of enrichment for their children on the new day off aren’t overlooked.

5 Ways to Get Students Outside

Image for Robert Peters blog post about how to get students outside

It’s been an unusual winter, but the sun is finally out and the weather is starting to get warmer. Students sense spring is here and know that means the end of the year is fast approaching. It can be difficult to keep students focused during class, when they’re stuck inside and can see the sun shining right outside the window, all while eagerly anticipating summer vacation. Taking your students outside for a period of time will help them get rid of their anxiousness to be out of the classroom and it’s healthy to get some fresh air. Read about some of the ways you can incorporate time outside into your lesson plans  to satisfy your students and also cultivate learning. You’ll like being outside too!

Give them a head start on homework

If it fits into your class schedule, plan to give them some time to start their homework during class. Students will focus because they know they’re working ahead and will have less to do that night and they’ll also be accomplishing something for the class. You can also head outside to let students start a worksheet they’re supposed to finish in class or to quickly review work from the day before. If students will be sitting and working on something anyway, you might as well let them do it outside.

Offer free reading time

While this activity depends on the type of class you have, students will almost always have something they need to read, whether it’s a novel, play, article, or research. Take your class outside while they read. If you’re reading together as a class, that is another great opportunity to move outside, so students can sit in a circle and read through their assignment together.

Create a writing prompt

Craft a writing prompt students can complete outside. Have them composes a poem about nature or write what they observe as they sit outside and listen. Encourage everyone to spend a few moments silently listening to everything around them; you’re helping them with their observational skills as well. If they’d spend time in class writing, it’ll be easy to let them do this task while outside.

Make it class specific

You can take any one of these ideas and tweak it to best fit your class. You can also do certain activities depending on what subject you’re teaching. If students are learning about ecology, teach them local plants and animals, then head outside and see if you can find any. For a literature class, spend time reading famous literature about nature, then let students try to write their own from inspiration while being outside.

Play a game

If you can schedule free time into your class schedule, try this idea! It’s important to stay focused on class work and accomplish what needs to be done, but sometimes students just need a break. Figure out a fun, easy activity that allows students to spend time outside, interact with one another, and also move around. Once you go back inside, your students will be much more focused on learning after working off excess energy.

The Difference Between a Teacher and an Educator

An image used for a blog post on the difference between being a teacher and being an educator

Before getting into the more minute differences between a teacher and an educator, I’d like to start with a simple dictionary definition of the two terms. The definition of a teacher is “one that teaches; especially: one whose occupation is to instruct,” while an educator is defined asa person who gives intellectual, moral, and social instructions.” There is a clear difference between these two words, which indicates that there’s a clear difference to the people we apply them to. Many use the two words interchangeably, but that isn’t completely accurate. As I’ve stated in another blog, you can be a teacher and not be an educator, you can be an educator and not be a teacher, or you can be both.

Educating vs. teaching

There’s a difference between teaching a child a list of facts and helping them sincerely understand a lesson. Educators make it their goal to ensure that students fully understand the lesson, while teachers who are not educators merely get through their lesson and hope the students took enough away to pass the class. Educators seek to instill deep understanding in students, the kind of learning that they’ll carry with them the rest of their lives.

Inspiring vs. telling

When a teacher merely focuses on teaching their students and not educating them, it usually results in telling them facts and a way of looking at topics, instead of inspiring the students to take learning onto themselves. Educators often inspire students to pursue their interests and delve deeper into certain subjects. Throughout the discovery process, educators will encourage this development and continue to cultivate any inspiration and interest.

Encouraging growth vs. meeting goals

For many teachers, it’s difficult enough to get through the daily syllabus and make sure students are sufficiently prepared for tests and are also completing their homework. An educator can take all of these goals a step further and encourage their students to grow as individuals in addition to teaching the required subjects and lessons. When working with students, an educator helps them grow in their lives outside of and beyond school, instead of only teaching them the lessons to get them to graduation. True educators teach students valuable life lessons and help them grow and become better people.

I feel confident in saying that the majority of teachers aspire to also become educators, but it can be incredibly difficult, especially in a school that doesn’t provide teachers with enough resources or training to handle a classroom full of children. Becoming an educator takes lots of studying and practice, but it’s definitely an admirable goal to strive toward.