Monday, November 21, 2016

Connecting with Students

Connecting with students is a part of building relationships. According to Paula Denton, author of The Power of Our Words: Teacher Language that Helps Children Learn, “In schools, relationships are treated as luxuries. Relationship is a necessity for learning. We can't afford not to do it." It is truly wonderful to something that has seemed so obvious to me anecdotally supported by research and educational experts. Instructional strategies are useful and content expertise hugely important but both are of negligible effect if the students doesn’t like you and doesn't know that you care. Rita Pierson famously said in a TED talk, “kids don't learn from people they don't like.” She convinced her students of a saying: "I am somebody. I was somebody when I came. I'll be a better somebody when I leave. I am powerful, and I am strong. I deserve the education that I get here. I have things to do, people to impress, and places to go." To help students believe in themselves to that degree, a large amount of effort had to be taken on her part to make connections and build relationships. And it was worth it.
According to James Alan Sturtevant, author of You’ve Gotta Connect, students who connect with their teachers are happier, more productive, more creative, learn and retain more, have fewer behavioral issues, have their creativity unleasher, are less likely to drop out, feel better about themselves, get along better with other students, are more likely to be comfortable with themselves as students, and achieve at higher levels. Many of these externally observable results could be attributed to the internal anatomy and physiology of the brain LITERALLY CHANGING as new networks are formed and then lined with myelin to improve the connection speed of the network.
This critical age of adolescence (from 12-24 according to Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., author of Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain) is a time for pruning of neural networks in the brain and myelination of established (and newly established) neural networks in order to increase the speed of those networks. This wonderful time of opportunity to increase of the efficiency of the brain is lost without proper relationship building.

Works Cited

Pierson, R. (2013, May). Every kid needs a champion. (R. Pierson, Performer) Retrieved October 3, 2016, from

Sears, N. (2015). Building Relationships with Students. Retrieved October 3, 2016, from NEA:

Siegel M.D., D. J. (2013). Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain. New York, NY: Penguin Random House LLC.

Sturtevant, J. A. (2014). You've Gotta Connect: Building Relationships that Lead to Engaged Students, Productive Classrooms, and Higher Achievement. Chicago, IL: World Book, Inc.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Growing a Brain

As an instructor or anatomy & physiology, I am most intrigued by the physiology of the teenage brain and how it affects behavior.  I have witnessed students struggle with depression and seen the devastation it has on their ability to excel academically.  I have seen students unwilling to interact with peers and therefore miss out on beneficial collaborative learning activities.   And I have experienced the frustration of students seemingly rushing through assessments only to demonstrate little  understanding of concepts.  And the list goes on…….  It is frustrating to watch students in any of these situations, but I find that understanding the development of their brain and the behaviors that are related, is a positive way of appreciating the place that each of these student are currently in.  They are in a state of brain development that interferes with the ‘adult’ behavioral norm.  They simply do not have a brain that works like ours, the adults.  Arthur Allen does a nice job of summing up these differences in the article “Risky behavior by teens can be explained in part by how their brains change” Reading it helps to understand how the changing brain can account for the teen behaviors previously mentioned.   
This image shows how the brain develops through early adulthood (the early 20’s).  While it may sometimes be easy dismiss erratic, disruptive or seemingly lazy behaviors as teenage personality flaws, this evidence scientifically suggests that we should not do so.  
Image result for teenage brain and behavior
Knowing about physical changes and the effect it has on teenage behaviors, helps educators empathize with their students. How we react to these behaviors is important in constructing an environment in which all students can learn. The video, written for adolescents, gives some important ideas that can be shared with students as we struggle to understand adolescence along with them.  It is important to have conversations with students about their developmental level and guide them to navigate through what can be a frustrating or awkward period of life.  

Monday, November 7, 2016

Connecting with the Detached Student

Connecting with the Detached Student

Poster.jpgAccording to Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., “the relationships we have with our parents and other people who care for us when we are very young most directly shape who we become.” But what happens when our primary caregivers did not tend to our need to be seen and soothed from a very young age? Children raised without those needs being met can develop an avoidant model of attachment, which leads to feeling disconnected from others as well as from their own emotions and needs. These students may have never had a healthy relationship with an adult and do not know how to make a connection.

Consider this girl’s experience.

Students who have non-secure attachment models can learn to transform them into secure attachment models when those models present themselves. Teachers who provide a safe environment and let the student know they will provide unconditional support can help to develop a secure attachment. Following the principle, every day is a fresh start, assures students who may have had a bad day that you will still be there for them the next day. Creating ways to connect with those students, who may not be involved in extracurricular activities, or interested in coming in early, or staying late for academic help could also provide a safe harbor in which they can develop a secure attachment.

In this blog, Mr. Provenzano describes three ways to be available for students, without putting a lot of pressure on them.

Works Cited
Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. (2013). Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain. New York: Penguin.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Volatile Student Resources

To me this quote reminds me that every child has the ability to learn but we have to remember that it might not be the way you want them to or the time that you want them to.  There are other times that might be more beneficial or other days that could accommodate the learning better.  Also, giving students choices helps them decide what can work best for that day and that time. I feel as long as they are engaged in something meaningful to class, that is what is important.
Angry Kids: Dealing with Explosive Behaviors - One part of this article that I liked was the reminder to stay calm in the face of a meltdown.  When students are struggling to contain their anger it is best for you the teacher to not blow up at the student and further enrage them.  The reminder to stay calm helps me to remember that a calm teacher can diffuse a situation and an angry teacher will exacerbate the situation.  The student needs you to model the calm behavior.  
When it Comes to Volatile Kids, Pick Your Battles  - The one part of this article that stuck out to me is the part entitled “Fair Doesn’t Mean Equal”.  It’s best to remember that changing rules or criteria is to benefit that particular child and it is not favoritism.  We don’t need to have a one size fits all.  Some students are mentally ready for all the challenges of being in the classroom that day, and some are not.  We don’t necessarily know all the background information on that child or what happened at home last night.  I feel like modifying certain things for different students helps to make that connection and they see that you recognize their individual needs.

Changing Educational Paradigms - What I like about this Tedtalk video is how it talks about education being set up like a factory with bells, grouping students only by age and having segregated subjects.  What would best benefit students are the choice of working in small groups, large groups, or by themselves and being grouped by ability in a certain subject and not being grouped by age alone.  They should also have the choice of what time of day works best for them to learn.  This reflects my quote in that each student is not meant to learn the same way as the others.

Reaching All High School Students: A Multi-tiered System of Support - While this video goes a little more into a structured school day, I like that it meets the individual needs of the students, works to build off of relationships that certain students have with certain teachers and gives students the opportunity to schedule visits with teachers to receive more one on one support around times that work for them.  They really use a team approach to support learning.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Asking in Unloving Ways

 “The kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving ways.”

We notice the students who day after day continue to challenge our teaching and our thinking. While some teachers see this as a hindrance and distraction to the class, I see it as an opportunity to change the way I am teaching and to reach out and make those needed connections. These students are literally crying out for help and as educators, we are responsible to eliminate those cries for help and instead open the doors of communication to better understand what these students need.

-Brittany Hoffmann


  • Sherry Turkle- a psychologist that discusses the need to disconnect. When connected by technology, are we really connected? The technology changes what we do as humans and how we do it, and it changes how we communicate, lack of human to human interaction. “Alone Together”- people want to be together, but customize their lives by being connected. We as educators can not let this “disconnection” happen in our classrooms, we need to keep those connections as human as possible and be sure that the students have our undivided attention to ensure that they are feeling the love that they need from us.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Classroom Engagement

Engagement is something we all strive for in our classrooms. Involving all students in their learning allows them to develop a stronger understanding of their own learning.

Using Engagement Strategies to Facilitate Children’s Learning and Success (article link)

In a fun and personal talk, Musallam gives 3 rules to spark imagination and learning, and get students excited about how the world works.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Myths of the Teenage Brain

Myths of Teenage Brain

Myth #1: Raging hormones are the reason that teenagers act the way that they do


Myth #2: Teenagers are hard to relate to and build connections with


Myth #3: Growing up during adolescence is all about moving from dependence on adults to complete independence from them.

Link to Article
Myth #4: The most dramatic brain development occurs during the teenage years – once my child is off to college things should settle down

Link to Prezi
Myth #5: It is my responsibility as a parent to help my child solve any conflicts that emerge as they navigate the often rocky road that is adolescence

Reality: Allow adolescents the opportunity to solve conflicts on their own before intervening.

Summary: According to Daniel J. Siegel, the greatest myth is that adolescence is an “immature period of life,” one “we need to just get through and survive.” The truth is that it is an important and necessary transformative period that can allow us to thrive – not just in adolescence, but in adulthood as well.

Works Cited

Azbel, O. (2013, February 25). The Teenage Brain.
Daniel J. Siegel, M. (2013). Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain. New York: Penguin.
Education, U. D. (2003, September 11). Independence--Helping Your Child Through Early Adolescence. Retrieved from U.S. Department of Education:
Gopnik, A. (2012, January 28). What's Wrong with the Teenage Mind? The Wall Street Journal.
Kim, E. (2015, June 12). Mean Girls and Conflict Theory. Retrieved from YouTube:
Pierson, R. (2013, May 3). Every Kid Needs a Champion. Retrieved from Ted :
Stuff Mom Never Told You. (2014, August 25). The Science of Teen Drama. Retrieved from YouTube:

Sturtevant, J. A. (2014). You've Gotta Connect: Building Relationships that Lead to Engaged Students, Productive Classrooms, and Higher Achievement. Chicago: World Book/Incentive Publications.