Know Your Worth…

We all get to a point where we see the writing on the wall and we know our journey in our respective jobs, relationships, etc. have run its course. If you’re a millennial then things tend to run their course a lot quicker than our parents’ generation. Don’t worry, it’s not our fault. We just see the world very differently.

Ironically, some will argue that millennials are spoiled, entitled latte sippers. However, I beg to differ. As millennials, we pride ourselves on being innovative, logical, and social game changers. We keep things lively and fresh. We also aren’t afraid to take chances. Some of us do enjoy the occasional latte from time to time too. 🙂

As many of my closest friends and family members know, I recently accepted a new job in a new school district. As nerve wracking as a transition can be for most, I am looking forward to the endless possibilities this new journey will bring into my life and the lives of those around me.

But, this post isn’t about millennials vs. non-millennials or my new job, it’s about knowing your worth. Often times, we wait for people to show appreciation for us at work, home, church, or in relationships, but it’s often lacking. In fact, sometimes the harder we try the more our efforts are taken for granted, but my charge to whoever is reading this post is to know your worth. Don’t allow yourself to settle for being mistreated, passed over, or patronized. What does this post have to do with education advice (Edvice)? Everything. Education comes in many forms. Starting a new business, going back to school, obtaining a promotion, gaining a new skill, starting a new relationship, creating a blog, are all just a few ways to help you develop your worth and to educate yourself. Never be afraid to take a leap of faith in the right direction and make an investment in yourself.

When you know your worth, sharing your talents become easier. So, do yourself and the world a favor and seek those new challenges that everyone else is afraid to conquer. It’s the challenge that will keep you motivated and will ignite the fire in others. If we’re all on fire, great things can happen.

©️ 2017 Bryan A. Ruffin

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Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

Countless studies have confirmed that getting a good night’s sleep coupled with a good diet can be extremely beneficial to children and adults. The premise is simple. If students get more sleep, they will be more alert in class. If adults get more sleep, they will be more alert. For both groups, getting more sleep, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy dose of family, friends, and technology can result in extremely positive results. The results of not getting enough sleep can be detrimental to one’s health.

One author points out that according to the Center for Disease Control, less than 70% of students get a full eight hours of sleep each night for various reasons. Some of the common culprits are: social media, school activities, homework, television, and family activities Like chores, babysitting, etc. However, what many fail to realize is that a lack of sleep not only makes one groggy, but it can also lead to higher rates of depression, physical challenges, and the inability to remember information.

When we sleep our brains tend to figure things out. It is while we are asleep that we unlock the keys to difficult challenges that we face in our daily lives. Our “a-ha moments” or epiphanies are commonly known to occur while we are asleep so it only makes sense to get a full night’s rest.

I currently serve as a high school principal at an early college high school. Our students take high school and college courses and can complete an associate’s degree and high school diploma by the time they graduate. One of the challenges with teenagers taking college and high school courses is time management. They often procrastinate and end up rushing to complete assignments just before they are due. Adults are no different. They often wait until the last minute to pay bills or complete tasks. While I was designing a college success course that I teach to my students who are unsuccessful in their college courses, I remembered this fact. Therefore, I have my students complete a schedule in class to help keep them organized and to better manage their time. I encourage students and adults to both create schedules to help ensure there is adequate time for sleep, chores, school work, etc.  But, remember once the schedule is created include flex time for unexpected emergencies and then stick to the schedule as much as possible.

©️ 2017 Bryan Ruffin

Classroom Management

As educators, we have all heard these two words at some point. Some of us have heard them in staff meetings; others may have seen these words in our classroom observation feedback from administrators. Others may have attended professional development or trainings on this topic. However, I assure you that classroom management is very different today than it was fifty years ago. Classroom Management is a winding road with twists and turns. When we are driving and come to a sharp turn we slow down and once the road straightens we accelerate. Classroom Management is no different. Sometimes we must slow down to reflect and then go full force.

Classroom management is no longer about instilling fear in students to make them behave. It is no longer about being in a power battle with students. It isn’t even about threatening to fail students. In fact, some students are not afraid of being threatened with a zero or calling their parents.

So, what is classroom management all about? Classroom management is about building positive relationships with your students and their parents and leveraging those relationships to get students to do what you need them to do in the classroom. It’s a give-and-take relationship. As any effective classroom manager will tell you, “if you respect your students and if they respect you, they will do what you ask in most situations.”

A quick and easy way to improve classroom management is to learn your students’ names. Learn how to spell them and pronounce them. Find positive reasons to call your students’ names throughout the school day. In addition to knowing your students’ names, make it a point to attend some of your students’ extracurricular events and celebrate their successes. In your classes, you will have some students who play sports; others will be artists or play in the marching band; some students will even work part time jobs. Trust me on this. Go to their events. Show your face. Make yourself visible. It will go a long way with students.

A few books that you can pick up to help you in this area is one that was given to me during orientation as a first year teacher. It’s called The First Days of School by Harry Wong. This book is old, but a lot of the information in the book is still very relevant. So, pick up a copy if you get a chance. Some other books that are worth reading is Ron Clark’s The Excellent 11 and The Essential 55. Both books are great resources to help you become a better classroom manager and truly drives home the point of building positive relationships with students which will naturally lend itself to better classroom management.

Four tips for successful classroom management are below:

  1. Establish routines and procedures in your classroom that include full lessons with little downtime and lots of activity switching.
  2. Build a positive relationship with your students and their parents.
  3. Develop a system of rewards and consequences to counteract discipline problems.
  4. Hold students accountable by giving them ownership and some control over the learning process.

I hope this information will be helpful for educators who are interested in learning more about classroom management.

© 2017 Bryan A. Ruffin

Writing in Math Classes

Math teachers sometimes ask me how they can incorporate literacy and/or writing in their classes. Since most mathematicians did not double major in English, I felt this would be a great opportunity to share how math teachers can include reading and writing activities in their instruction to help students learn how to solve complex math problems. So, here we go.

  1. To begin with, students often struggle with solving complex math problems because they do not know math vocabulary related to the equations they are trying to solve. Therefore, spending time helping students learn the vocabulary is the only way to help them begin to fully understand what they are being asked to do in the math problem. Various activities can be used to build vocabulary (Frayer model, spellingcity.com, wordynamo.com, Quizlet, flashcards, Jeopardy, etc.) Students can use the vocabulary to create sentences related to math or create a story using the vocabulary. The possibilities are endless. If students don’t understand the vocabulay, they will likely misread the math problem.
  1. Think of literacy and writing as an opportunity to have students explain various concepts related to specific topics. For example, if students are starting a new unit on functions, they can complete a two-minute writing activity requiring them to jot down everything they know about functions to assess their prior knowledge. I’m big on classroom talk so I would definitely have students verbally share their responses with their peers using a digital learning tool like Padlet since it incorporates technology, but also allows students to get their down before haphazardly speaking.
  1. Another great way to incorporate literacy into a math class is to provide students with solutions to a math problem and have them write out the required steps used to solve the equation. To reinforce the vocabulary, have students use their math vocabulary words they learned earlier in the lesson.
  1. As students become more skilled writers, they will be able to write longer paragraphs and essays related to the various math concepts being covered in class. A great way to include writing and 21st Century Skills is to have students create their own free blogs through sites like WordPress. This allows students to keep a running portfolio of their own work. They can write a response to quotes by famous mathematicians or create equations to solve real world problems. During one of my recent peer school visits, I observed students creating and using an equation to determine the time of death in a grade wide murder mystery. Talk about high student engagement!

As a lasting thought, always remember that writing and literacy can come in many forms. It can be short or long, but should evoke deep thought in your students. It should also require students to elaborate on various class topics to demonstrate a deep understanding of the content. Don’t be afraid to have students write on interdisciplinary topics that span across different content areas. This will help students make connections between different subject areas which is amazing to see. The idea is to get students thinking, analyzing, and putting their thoughts on paper. Happy Writing!

© 2017 Bryan A. Ruffin

Moving Mountains

Once upon a time there were four young athletes who lived in small towns in northeastern North Carolina. Three of the young men played football in high school. The young lady was captain of her high school’s dance team. Statistically speaking, all four of these young people should have dropped out of high school, had one or more illegitimate children, been arrested for selling or purchasing illegal substances, homicide or a slew of other offenses. Although statistics report that today’s black youth are more likely to be incarcerated or less likely to obtain advanced degrees after high school if they graduate at all, these four individuals have overcome these statistics by proving they are not sex-crazed, drug selling high school dropouts. All four have just graduated from high school in northeastern North Carolina. As the story continues, two of the young men will be attending college in the fall and the third will be enlisting in the Navy. The young lade will also be attending college in the fall.

So, how did these four young people graduate even though the cards were stacked against them? One important piece of information that I neglected to mention earlier in the story was that all four of them attend church regularly. At their church, they are taught the importance of maturing into responsible young adults. They have also attended sessions on planning, applying, and paying for college along with their parents where they learned about financial aid, the Fafsa, and how to respectfully address police officers. Jeremiah, Jharel, and Damien have attended a summit specifically designed for African American boys on dressing professionally, proper handshakes, and how to start their own businesses. They have also been taught the importance of having a strong support system to encourage them. Church members pray for them and encourage them regularly. They have been given the tools to grow into respectable adults. Additionally, they have very strong support systems at home.

So, why am I sharing this story on Edvice? Have you ever tried to paint a wall without paint or a paintbrush? It’s pretty difficult and tends to not turn out well. It is my personal belief that we can train a child to grow up to be successful if they are given the right tools. There are recipes to help shape and mold today’s youth into productive citizens who can positively contribute to the world in which we live. It is not always easy or convenient. It requires sacrifice and time, but it is certainly possible and well worth the investment. These four young people are living proof that not all of today’s youth are lost and
are worthy of our time and energy.

Perhaps you may know or interact with youth on a regular or semi-regular basis. Don’t be afraid to encourage them or offer them advice. It’s not enough to place all the responsibility on their parents or someone else. It takes a village to raise children and it’s amazing how much kids will listen when they know someone actually cares about them. During a time when  young, black teenagers are being shot without hesitation, it is extremely refreshing to know these stories have a positive beginning. We should all remember the seeds we plant today will grow into something. If we plant and cultivate seeds of greatness, that’s the harvest we will reap.

© 2017 Bryan A. Ruffin

NC Senate Bill 873

SB873 or the Access to Affordable College Education Act was filed on May 10, 2016 with the first edition of the bill being released on May 11, 2016 by Republican Senator Chairman Tom Apodaca who serves Buncombe, Henderson, and Transylvania (District 48) counties in North Carolina. The most recent edition of the bill guaranteed the following:

  1. No in-state tuition increase for standard college term
  2. Reduction of student fees by 5% and no more than a 3% annual increase in the subsequent years
  3. Reduced tuition at certain institutions
    • $500 per semester for in-state students; $2500 per semester for out-of-state students.
    • Graduate teaching or research assistants in a similar instructional or research assignment and is at the same time enrolled as a graduate student in the same institution would be permitted a lower tuition rate no lower than $500.
    • includes Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, University of North Carolina at Pembroke, Winston Salem State University, and Western Carolina University. 
  4. Evaluation of admission cap on out-of-state students
  5. Establish Merit Scholarship at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and North Carolina Central University

    • Up to 50 scholarships awarded–40 for resident students and 10 for nonresident students at each of the two universities
    • fully funded four‑year scholarship that covers the cost of all of the following: full tuition, student fees, housing, meals, textbooks, a laptop, supplies, travel, and personal expenses. Each scholarship also provides four summers of fully funded enrichment and networking opportunities that may include international travel and study.
    • Cheatham‑White Scholarship
    • recipients selected on the basis of academic merit, honorable character, outstanding leadership potential, and a demonstrable commitment to service. Financial need shall not be a consideration.
    • Nominations determined by size of Senior class student body at high schools.

There has been a public outcry, particularly by proponents of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) who feel that the components of the bill are a trick to unwittingly force HBCUs to close its doors, arguing that some HBCUs on the list are struggling to stay open and that lowering the tuition to $500 would cheapen the degrees offered by these institutions. Proponents believe the tuition decrease will likely lead to students receiving a sub par education since it will be extremely difficult to attract highly qualified professors. The North Carolina NAACP rallied against the proposed statute.

Critics question why universities with high rates of minorities are on the list instead of predominately white universities since they have higher tuition rates. As rumors of name changes of certain HBCUs to attract a whiter audience spread, bills such as SB 873 cause HBCU proponents to become even more restless. 

As politics continue to rule decisions in education, many believe that this is nothing more than a setup for a HBCU takeover since every move in politics in strategic. I implore you to read “The Paradox of Tarheel Politics” by Rob Christensen to learn more about the history of strategic political corruption that has existed in North Carolina since the late 1800s. 

According to Gwendolyn Glenn with WFAE, Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, and Winston Salem State University are no longer included in the Senate legislation. The last edition of SB873 was withdrawn from the calendar and re-referred to the Senate on May 26, 2016. 

So what advice does Edvice give? Before laws that can be misconstrued like this one are introduced, serious conversations need to take place between stakeholders about the current state of higher education at all North Carolina colleges and universities. Surveys should also be administered to find out why certain universities struggle to increase enrollment to determine what can be done to help these universities. The information that is gained from the conversation and surveys should be used to create a plan of action to avoid public outcries like this one. The lesson that can be learned in this situation is to include as many stakeholders as possible in major decisions so everyone feels like they have a voice to express their concerns.

© 2017 Bryan A. Ruffin