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Words of Wisdom to Live (and Teach) By from One Georgia Principal

Words of Wisdom to Live (and Teach) By from One Georgia Principal

Recently, I had the privilege of speaking with Dr. Connie Yearwood about her elementary school’s implementation of Edmentum programs, and she dropped more than a few teaching truth bombs that really resonated with us. As principal of eight years at Demorest Elementary School in Habersham County, Georgia, and a seasoned educator with almost 20 years of experience in various roles, including 4th grade teacher, library media specialist, assistant principal, and adjunct professor, she’s seen a lot. And, we couldn’t agree more with some of the ideals she holds dear.

Here are a few words of wisdom that we wanted to share with you to inspire, motivate, and encourage you.

Truth Bomb #1: “Unless we can get students to work as hard as the teachers are working, then students really don’t own their learning.”

Are you burning the candle at both ends crunching numbers, updating data walls, and building out student portfolios long after the school day is over? Essentially, are you working twice as hard as your students? If your answer is yes, then this reminder is for you! Find meaningful ways for students to play a larger role in the process, participating in the trajectory of their own academic journey so that they have a little more stake in the game. What if they set their own learning goals, tracked their progress, and helped decide which learning activities serve them best? When you look for ways to make learning more personal, students will also become more committed to the end result. After all, you can’t pull them across the finish line; they have to make that decision for themselves.

Truth Bomb #2: “If children are engaged and challenged appropriately, then they will perform. Similarly, with adults, don’t waste their time. Same for children.”

You’ve seen it before—the student who is bored with the activity and causing mischief in the back of the classroom. He or she has decided this is a waste of time and checked out, and as frustrating as that is for you, be honest with yourself—you’ve probably expressed the same feelings during one PD session or another. Take a deep breath and dig in; something probably needs to change (and it’s not your classroom management approach).

It’s important to remember that students will often rise to the expectations you set for them. Are those expectations both challenging and motivating at the same time? When assignments only require basic skills and are too easy or, conversely, too ambiguous and unattainable, that’s when things start to fall apart. But, when you strike just the right balance, suddenly your classroom management challenges dissipate, and real, active learning has room to flourish.

Truth Bomb #3: “If children can read and read well, they can learn to do anything.”

As a former kindergarten teacher myself, I really identify with this one. We all know that reading is often the key to unlocking future learning across any subject, but in between phonics lessons and spelling tests, have you shared this with your students? I’m definitely guilty of keeping this gem of wisdom to myself a little too much. Instead, let the imagination and possibilities of what they could learn in a book fuel their appetite to become passionate, lifelong readers.

Truth Bomb #4: “Nothing, nothing, nothing will ever take the place of a teacher in a classroom, but when she has quality resources, and it's streamlined and, they see those resources as being valuable, then you enhance the teacher in the classroom.”

It’s important to end on this note because, yes, even as an edtech company, we know that we are part of the process, not the silver bullet. Dr. Yearwood communicates the power of great teaching perfectly, and shows how truly irreplaceable that personal connection can be. But, even superheroes need help from their trusted sidekicks now and then, don’t they?

Likely, these truth bombs left you nodding your head in agreement or thinking of particular students and situations over the years when you may have felt the same way. We love having the opportunity to share our educators’ passion for the work they do and use it to fuel the programs and consulting we provide. If you’re interested in hearing more from Dr. Yearwood and the great things her team is doing at Demorest Elementary School, check out the success story: Maximizing Instructional Time with Adaptive Learning in Demorest, Georgia.

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Madison Michell

Madison Michell has been a member of the Edmentum team since 2014 and currently serves as a Marketing Manager. As a former Kindergarten and 3rd grade teacher during her time as a Teach For America corps member, she believes education truly has the power to transform lives. She is passionate about connecting educators with online programs, best practices, and research that improve teaching and learning for today's students.