Who is Neila Connors?
Dr. Neila A. Connors has been an elementary teacher, middle school teacher, and administrator. She has since moved onto serve the educational community in the role of Teacher Adviser, Author, Educational Speaker, and researcher. Her focus is on improving relationships in order to improve achievement.
Important Acronyms to Know
Dr. Connors uses a lot of acronyms throughout her book. These are to help you better understand what is needed to have a 5-star classroom. To help us as we read, i have included some of the acronyms below:
About the Book
Dr. Connors has written her book as a series of recipes that you can use at any time to improve the attitude and achievement levels in your classroom. I read this book (free on Libro.FM April 2020; to learn more about free books from Libro.FM please read this post. ) over multiple days and have outlined what I have learned from each chapter below.
Chapter 1: Welcome!
We all know that we only have one chance to make a first impression. This same saying applies to our schools and classrooms. What are you doing to make an impression upon your administration, students, and parents that make them seek you out as a professional expert who is caring, knowledgeable, and welcoming? Learn about the 8 rules of respect and how your attitude is the number one thing that affects your relationships with others.
Chapter 2: Ambiance
The environment is important. Students come to school expecting to find care, comfort, cleanliness, and a positive atmosphere. The climate and culture matter as much as the quality of the education provided. How are you designing your classroom to make it a welcoming environment where all students will feel comfortable to live, learn, and grow?
Chapter 3: Safety
Safety is never a consideration when we go out to eat but it has become an issue in our schools. In order for our schools to become the best place for students, safety needs to become a non-issue. As teachers we are mandated reporters. We keep our eyes and ears open to protect our students but who do we report the hidden problems within our schools walls to? What makes you feel safe and secure? How can we create this same environment in our schools?
Chapter 4: Menu
PBIS (Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports) is the primary way to help students to succeed behaviorally while RTI (Response to Intervention) is the primary way to help students to succeed academically. The climate of the school is built upon many different tools, a menu of things to bring about a successful year implemented by a team of people. These are the tools that we need to focus on and enhance. What are you doing to increase your knowledge and skills in this area?
In a five start restaurant, all personal needs are met by a team of people. There are many options and ways to meet these needs. In our classrooms and schools, this must be the same. We must create an atmosphere that allows students to feel confident in their relationships so that they may make choices that help them reach their full potential. What are we doing in our classroom to promote student choice? Are we giving choices to our colleagues and team members?
If we have built trust with our students and colleagues, then we feel comfortable in their ability to make a decision. We know that the decisions that will be made are done with the best intentions to have a productive and passionate school year. This trust has to be built from the first day. You must learn about each member in your team so that when it is time to make choices, you can be confident in the outcomes.
Chapter 5: This Way, Please!
Your administration are those who will be the leaders of change. Effective school leadership is what will determine if your school is five-stars or not. Look at what makes your school a success. Look at what you can approve upon. How you can you assist? Is there something you can assist administration with to help the school improve?
Dr. Connors has a list of 5 things that all administrators need to be successful. As teachers we are the administration of our classrooms and need these same skills. 1) Love kids. 2) Be a positive communicator. 3) Have a vision. Lead by example. 4) Learn to fight only the battles worth fighting for. You cannot and will not win them all. 5) Have a sense of humor. Which of these things do you excel at? Which ones do you need to improve?
Chapter 6: I'll Be Your Server
The first question we must ask ourselves is "why do we want to work at a school?" Then we must ask why this grade or subject. If you are not here for the right reason, then this is not the profession for you. Most students describe their teachers as "nice." Are you nice to others? Do you genuinely care about each student? Do you have the heart of a servant?
Being inside the classroom is more than just the curriculum. You must be creative, innovative, and adaptive. You must work with a multitude of attitudes, cultures, races, and needs. You must mix all of these together to create a recipe for success. What do you do differently inside of your classroom that makes it a success?
Chapter 7: Communication
Communication is the key to success in any organization including schools. Communication needs to be regular, consistent, and satisfaction needs to be confirmed. In a school, methods of communication should be consistent among all teachers. For example, if using ClassDojo then all teachers are. This helps parents know when and how communication will be sent. Is everyone in your school using the same methods to communicate? Is it consistent? When is new information expected?
Communication is also a skill we must teach our students. Communication is a recipe. 55% Body Language, 25% Listening, 38% tone, and 7% the actual words said. We spend 40% of our time listening, 35% of the time talking, and 25% spacing out. We must teach our students all of these skills. How are you teaching your students to moderate their tone, choosing words to convey their message, how to use their body language to convey a message without words, and how to listen?
Chapter 8: Satisfaction
What is your attitude like? How do you handle stress? These are the things that make or break a classroom. We have all heard that the attitude of the teacher affects how the students will react. In order for our students to feel F.E.E.D. and fulfilled inside our classrooms, we must have a positive attitude and a way to deal with stress. We as a teacher are role models. What does your behavior teach your students?
Chapter 9: Comment Card
Honest feedback is a vital component to success. You need to ask students, parents, and others how you can assist them. Then you do so with the best of your ability and a positive attitude. It is my pleasure to serve you. As teachers we provide feedback to our students each time we grade an assignment but we also need to give them a chance to provide us feedback as well. How do you determine if you are meeting the needs of your parents, students, and administration? What do you do with the feedback once you have received it?
Chapter 10: Fun
Creating an environment that students enjoy coming too. If you did not enjoy going to a restaurant, you would not want to continue to dine there. In a school, we want our students to enjoy learning and growing. We want it to be fun. Fun isn't only for your students. It also needs to be fun for you. You need to enjoy the environment in which you teach. You should look forward to it each day. What is fun about your classroom? What do you enjoy? What do you enjoy about your school building? What is fun about your colleagues? How do you celebrate together?
Chapter 11: Check Please!
Reflecting on your experience determines the value of the service you have received. As teachers we reflect upon on procedures, routines, and lessons. We are constantly making these changes. Rarely do we reflect upon why we teach, how we respond to stress, how we communicate with others, or how our school as a whole is doing. These are the questions that we need to ask. How are we doing both personally and professionally? What can we do to make ourselves more successful in the life we have chosen?
If you or your school are struggling with developing personal relationships and communicating positively, this is a great book that provides you a lot of resources. If this is an area that you excel in, this is a book to borrow and review.