About Randy Miller

Randy R. Miller is a social studies teacher at Charter High School located in Camden, NJ. Randy has 5 years collective experience in both K-12 and higher education as a fundraiser, program coordinator and student advisor. He is also Co-Founder and CEO of MORE, Inc., which empowers urban youth and young adults holistically through education and mentoring using practical strategies for real life application. Randy received both his bachelor of arts degree (2005) and master’s degree in public policy and administration (2008) from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.

This was pre-midterm week at school. Anxiety was indeed high among the students and also among the administrators within my building. This week, I took the opportunity to recap everything I possibly could with my students – stuff that we had learned in September all the way up to last week. I handed out study guides that my students said felt like the Bible. We played games, I quizzed them using the Socratic Method, and of course we played jeopardy. Whenever I play games with my students, they very much get into whatever it is that we’re doing. They can get a bit loud and rowdy, but I can tolerate it to a degree; specifically when recalling the course material is at the center of all their excitement. What amazes me sometimes however is when I tell my colleagues about such games with the various groups of students we share, they look at me in amazement and say such things like, “I could never do that with them… they are too rambunctious and too raucous for an activity such as that.” So I begin to wonder why- I wonder what’s the difference between myself and those teachers who say such things? Whelp, I went straight to the horse’s mouth.

Moment of the Week

Friday I actually took a moment in my classes to address my students regarding their teachers. Whenever we’ve hit a moment in the curriculum when we’re ahead of the pacing schedule, I like to have what my kids have affectionately named “circle time.” When we have circle time, we discuss any and everything. Some days we talk about current events and others are counseling sessions. But it is during these conversations that I learn the most about the mindset of my kids and I can really teach them about life during these moments. Today was the last day of our midterm review. We had made so much progress throughout the week that we had about a half hour to spare in just about each of my classes. Earlier in the day, my principal asked me to work with two of our younger teachers on their classroom management techniques. The word on the street is that the students run over these two teachers – freshmen are running all over them… Freshmen??? I teach all of the freshmen at our school and they can be a bit boisterous at times, but I don’t tolerate disrespect. So after I got this request from my principal, I talked to my ninth graders and I asked them which teachers did the best job keeping order and which teachers weren’t the greatest at it. The kids gave the answers I was expecting, announcing that the two teachers my principal requested me to assist with strategies were the ones who could not control their classrooms.

I heard all kinds of comments; they called these teachers inexperienced, soft, weak, without authority, unable to address an audience of students properly, poor lesson planners, too apologetic and scared. I wasn’t shocked or surprised, just concerned. After I gave my kids a chance to vent, I reminded them that regardless of what they think or how they feel about an individual, they must respect the position of their teachers; we are responsible for their physical and mental welfare, whether or not they agree with our tactics or motivations. Nevertheless, my students are fully aware of who they can run over and who commands their respect. Next week, while we’re conducting midterms, I plan on meeting with those teachers at the request of my principal to discuss some of what I heard and how I can help to make things better for themselves as well as their students. I am sure that the experience is equally frustrating for these teachers as it is for the students. My kids are a handful and they know it. As I told them, if you want respect you must give it.

Lesson of the Week

Whether we realize it or not, our students are watching our every move. We expect them to pay attention to the lesson and the content we’re discussing, but our students are paying attention to us in even greater detail. Issues of classroom management aren’t always problems associated with our students but sometimes, our classroom management issues are because our lack of attention to detail. When we take ownership of our craft, students notice. When we put time, care and effort into our lessons, when we take time to invest our time, energy and our dreams and fears into our students, they take notice. When we feed our students with life giving nutrients in the form of a rich curriculum and rich instruction, they notice. The truth is that students want to learn and they want you to teach them. When our students don’t hold up their end of the bargain, we notice and call them on it. Our students do the same thing – they call us on our failures in the classroom among each other. Sure they don’t tell us because they fear retaliation from us teachers. However, they are critical of our performance and behavior, just as we are of them. I know that our students are not perfect either. But teaching and learning is a dance conducted with two individuals; when one isn’t dancing right, neither can perform as we’ve intended. Let’s make sure that we pay attention to our work, because our students are paying attention to our work.

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