5 Ways Students Can Participate in Activism in High School

Group of people marching with a banner and signs, image for Robert Peters educator blog on how to encourage activism in high school students

No matter what school district you work in, there are going to be students who care about issues affecting the world. Student activism is becoming increasingly common, particularly on college campuses, but it’s also popular at the high school level. If you have students who are passionate about specific causes, support their interest and help them become more active in working to better these causes. Whether they’re passionate about the environment, civil rights, animal welfare, helping children, or something else, provide them with the knowledge and tools they need to make a difference.

Educate yourself & others

The first step high school students can take to becoming more involved in their chosen type of activism is by educating themselves and others. If they truly want to make a difference, taking the time to be informed on issues and understand the context is important. Read up on recent news and related websites or blogs in order to learn everything possible. Then, share this newfound knowledge with others through conversations or posts on social media. They could even start a blog and talk about the issues they care about.

Find local organizations

If you live in or near a city, there are bound to be many organizations focusing on a variety of issues. Most organizations allow teenagers to help out if they’re under 18, as long as they have parental permission. Teach your students about these resources and let them know that their time and help is valuable.

Start a fundraiser

If your students cannot give significant time to an organization or cause, starting a fundraiser at school and in the local community could be a good solution. Whether it’s a drive for needed items or just for funds, whatever is raised can then be sent to the organization or cause the students support.

Create a school club

If there isn’t currently an organization at your school that focuses on the student’s chosen issue, they can certainly start one. It’s common for specific causes to be represented at schools and then regular fundraisers and events are organized. For most districts, creating a club is fairly straightforward and encouraged by schools. It’s a fantastic way for your student to become more of an activist and raise awareness of an important issue.

Connect with people

A final step students can take to become a young activist is connecting with other people. Whether in the community, at school, or across the country, there are other people who share the student’s interest in a particular issue. Students can also attend events, such as larger fundraisers, protests, marches, or lectures on the issue. As they begin talking with others and forging new connections, writing a petition or contacting those holding public office is also a great option.

3 Ways to Prevent Bullying in Your Classroom

legs of students walking around and talking in a classroom, legs of desks visible, image for Robert Peters educator blog on preventing bullying

Bullying can happen at any time and in any place. Because it is something that could escalate into a very unfavorable situation, it shouldn’t be written off as simply childhood teasing. As educators, we need to take bullying seriously and take measures to prevent it. Bullying could be detrimental to one’s emotional health, mental health, and physical health. It could even threaten a life.

While no one can be around every student at every moment of the day, there are a few key things that can be done to better ensure that bullying is minimized in the classroom. Controlling bullying is as simple as knowing what it is, how it looks, and where it happens.

Know what bullying actually is

Bullying shouldn’t be written off as teasing. While teasing is done merely to irritate or annoy another individual, bullying is much different. According to Sweeting and West, bullying happens when there is an imbalance of power.

Bullying can be excessive teasing, threats, or name calling. It could also be anything that makes an individual feel uncomfortable going where he needs or wants to go. Bullying can be verbal, nonverbal, or physical. If a students seems hurt or uncomfortable with something another student student did or said, ask them about it. If the student is seriously upset and you feel the need to intervene, do so. However, it may be better to first address the situation with the upset student.

Know the warning signs

Children who are being bullied often show signs. While no child exhibits the exact same signs as another, educating oneself in the signs of a person who is being bullied could prevent further bullying. It is also helpful to know the common signs of an actual bully. Knowing what to look out for could prevent a child from being bullied or from bullying others.

Children who are being bullied often have random bruises. They could also have low-self esteem, a decreased interest in school, or could be getting their personal belongings damaged. Children who bully others often get into a great deal of fights or have friends who are bullies. There are lots of other warning signs to watch out for, so educate yourself.

Know where bullying happens

Statistics show that most bullying happens in areas where adults aren’t usually present, such as on the playground, on the school bus, and in hallways. Bullying can also occur when kids are walking to and from school, in the cafeteria, and online.

Staff should do their best to monitor these locations. However, since it is impossible to keep an eye on all students at all times, it is critical that it is communicated to students the importance of reaching out to an adult when he or she is being bullied or suspects bullying. Remember to educate your kids on the seriousness of bullying and where they can go for help if they’re a victim of bullying or witness it happening.

5 Skills to Teach Your Students They Won’t Learn in School

Student sitting behind a high stack of books, image used for Robert Peters educator blog about life skills to teach your students

Teaching in and off itself is a challenging profession. For some students, you’re the first adult that’s really cared about their life or been interested in their future plans. In the United States, education is required up to a certain age, so you’ll work with students from all walks of life. Some want to be in the classroom and others hate it. However, one day your students are going to face the world outside of school and be completely responsible for themselves (if they aren’t already). Having a well-rounded education is important and you need to focus on the subject you’re teaching them, but it’s also vital that students learn necessary life skills as early as possible. Here are some simple skills you can teach your students and incorporate into your classroom, no matter what subject you’re usually teaching.

Professionalism

This skill is one I’ve addressed previously, highlighting ways you can instill a sense of professionalism in your students. No matter where they go in their future careers, being able to carry themselves in a professional manner is invaluable. Teach your students to successfully interview for a job and they’ll already be ahead of many others.

Resume writing

While this topic is related to professionalism, it’s also worth mentioning on its own. Even in high school, many students are applying and working jobs in order to gain some income. If they apply for college or a job right out of high school, having a resume, or at least a record of jobs and volunteer work, is incredibly beneficial. Teach them how to format it correctly and what kind of language to use to create a solid resume.

Personal finance

This topic could be a class all on its own, but teaching students basic personal finance skills is important. Teach them about a credit card, how to open their own bank account, about interest and loans. Most students come out of high school with zero knowledge about personal finance, which can severely impact them as they move through life. Knowledge of how to manage personal finances helps students avoid making bad financial decisions and getting into overwhelming debt.

Self-care

Students are often stressed out and rarely know how to manage these emotions. Teach your students about self-care options, such as how to calm themselves down, who to talk to if they’re experiencing a crisis, and other useful resources. Letting them know about local clinics they can visit or methods to use during times of stress can help immensely.

Healthy lifestyle

For students, health concerns may not be common. However, it’s important for them to be mindful of their health as early as possible. Let them know the importance of getting enough rest, eating nutritious and balanced meals, and getting regular exercise. They’ll be grateful for this advice as they get older.

How to Keep Your Students Focused During the Holidays

Student sitting at a desk with a computer and notebook open in front of them, image used for Robert Peters educator blog on how to keep students focused during the holidays

The holidays can be a wonderful chance to indulge in festivities, cultural experiences and more, but it can be difficult to keep your students focused on learning with all this excitement and their anticipation of the holidays. Many times, students of all ages and grade-levels are starting to tune-out and look towards the coming holidays and having some time off of school. These feelings are totally natural; you’re probably looking forward to the holidays too.

It’s important to remember that your students are children and budding young-adults, not robots. By recognizing this fact, and accepting that you cannot change it, it becomes much easier to instead tailor your teaching and lessons to this development. Now, let’s talk about some ways you can use the holiday spirit to keep your students engaged, focused, and progressing in their educations.

Maintain classroom structure

Don’t throw your rules and established expectations out the window. You can’t expect your students to not be distracted during the holidays, but students thrive on stability. Everyone, yourself included, performs better when previously established norms are followed.

Continue to assign your regular weekly or bi-weekly assignments, have homework due at the normal dates, etc. Don’t abandon classroom structure you’ve established, use it! Keeping with the same routine can help students stay focused because they know what’s expected of them.

Tailor your lessons to the season

The easiest way to keep your students focused and working hard is to tailor your lessons to the holiday at hand. Don’t ignore the fact that Christmas is right around the corner, embrace it!

Regardless of your subject-matter, you can find a way to tie it into the season’s festivities into at least some lessons. Your students will appreciate the much-needed break from “hard content”, and the creativity these assignments usually employ. Try to incorporate some fun activities that are relevant to the holidays that the students will enjoy while also learning something new.

Keep your pace, don’t overwork

It’s important to continue teaching at your normal pace. Don’t suddenly pile on two-weeks worth of work and expect your students to actually do it over their winter break — it’s called a break for a reason. They’ll only be miserable before and after break and you’ll have to deal with this attitude.

Keep this idea in mind during the rest of the school year. Make sure you get through key chapters and lessons with enough time to spare so you’re not cramming before the holiday!

A final word on holidays

Remember that holidays are a special time in every culture. Embrace this, and use it as a break from the factory-like routine of schooling. Enhance your lesson plans, ask your students what their plans are and share yours, and remember – you deserve a break, too. Use this time to recharge and revitalize, the year isn’t over yet!

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.