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The Response-Able Educator Newsletter 28
March 11, 2004


Welcome! This is a free newsletter on becoming a Response-Able teacher and developing Response-Able students.



My mission is to inspire, encourage and uplift the spirits of educators so they can in turn inspire, encourage, and uplift the spirits of their students.





1. Quote [back to top]


"If we distrust the human being, then we must cram him with information of our own choosing lest he go his own mistaken way. But if we trust the capacity of the human individual for developing his own potentiality, then we can permit him the opportunity to choose his own way in his learning."



2. Spirit Whisperer Contemplation [back to top]


What if the main purpose of learning to read is to enable us to read ourselves? Are your students learning to read?


3. Facts [back to top]


Over 100 million plus children worldwide have never spent a day in school.


4. Connectedness [back to top]


Close ties, a sense of belonging, and feelings of family created at school reduce the likelihood of drug use, violence, and early sex, according to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Students who attend junior high and high schools with fewer than 1200 students are less likely than students who attend more populous schools to engage in risky behavior involving drugs, violence, and sex. Feeling more closely connected to their teachers and to one another, these students are less isolated and develop more personal relationships.


5. Bumper Sticker [back to top]


Spotted on a Chevy Blazer in the Milan, MI, public library parking lot:

My cat is smarter than your honor roll student.


6. Words to Live By [back to top]


The hitchhiker who sucks his thumb never gets anywhere.


7. ICM Buttons [back to top]


By Chick Moorman

I have antennae that notice things like this, so it came as no surprise when I spotted the ICM button on a middle school student in a crowded hallway in western Nebraska.

The button was 4 inches in diameter and contained only three letters, all capitals: ICM. I had no idea what the button was intended to communicate. For all I knew, the letters were really Roman numerals; or maybe the button was related to an upcoming school election. Curious about its significance, I decided to ask.

"What do you have there?" I asked the adolescent who was wearing the button.

"It's an ICM button," he informed me in a tone putting me on notice that the answer to my question was obvious.

"What do the letters stand for?" I continued. "What does 'ICM' mean?"

"ICM stands for 'I Can Manage.' Did you know I managed to bring my materials to class three days in a row? I can manage my materials."

"Congratulations," I offered.


"Where did you get that button?" I continued.

"My teacher, Mrs. Chen, gave it to me."

"How do I find this teacher?" I asked, hoping to get pointed in the right direction.

"Follow me. I'm on my way to class now."

As I entered the classroom of the teacher who gives students ICM buttons, I realized she was a special education teacher. She and an aide worked with 15 students in this special needs classroom.

After introducing myself as the afternoon staff development speaker, I got right to my agenda.

"I met one of your students in the hall," I explained. "He was wearing an ICM button. Can you tell me about those?"

"Oh, that was Luis," she said. "I gave him one for managing his materials. He's been working really hard on that, and I thought he deserved some positive recognition. ICM stands for 'I Can Manage.' One of the things we're working on in here is managing ourselves. Sometimes I give the buttons to students for managing their time, their mouths, or even for managing to be where they're supposed to be at any given moment. Managing tempers, words, supplies, or the cleanup effort have also resulted in receiving an ICM button from time to time. I gave one out last week when one of my students walked across the room to the pencil sharpener and back without hitting, kicking, or poking. I gave it to her for managing her hands and feet."

As I explored the ICM button phenomenon with Mrs. Chen, I found she distributed them indiscriminately. There was no set schedule. There was no number of points to be earned in order to get one. Some weeks none were awarded, other weeks several were distributed. When Mrs. Chen felt one was deserved, she gave it. Students kept the buttons for three days and wore them proudly.

I also learned that Mrs. Chen had enlisted the aid of all the other adults in the building. Anyone who taught, served lunch, helped out in the library, worked in the office, or handled discipline in the school was honor bound to go up to any students they saw wearing ICM buttons and ask them where they got the buttons and what the buttons stood for. Failure to do so would land them in trouble with Mrs. Chen.

Thus, any student wearing an ICM button could expect to be asked several times a day, "Where did you get that? What does it stand for?" The student was then able to say frequently, "I can manage. I can manage my materials."

I wonder if Judy Chen ever rewards herself with an ICM button. I hope so. I hope she wears it proudly in the halls of her school. And if someone comes up and asks her what it stands for, I hope she tells them, "That's my ICM button. It means I can manage. I can manage my classroom by encouraging positive behaviors in my students."

Chick Moorman is the author of "Spirit Whisperers: Teachers Who Nourish a Child's Spirit" and "Parent Talk: How to Talk to Your Child in Language That Builds Self-Esteem and Encourages Responsibility." The books are available from Personal Power Press at (toll-free) 877-360-1477. Chick Moorman also publishes a FREE E-newsletter for parents as well as this one for educators. Contact him at to get your free subscription to one or both newsletters.


8. Changing the Face of Our Voice [back to top]


Frances A. Miller
Elizabethtown Area School District
Elizabethtown, PA
PCDC Board Member

Often, teachers will attend conferences, workshops, or classes and return with a sense of renewal. One teacher with whom I work approached me shortly after participating in a Master's level class, bursting with excitement. She was learning about empowering students through the use of selective language. This philosophy is based on the research of Chick Moorman and Nancy Weber and is explained in their book, "Teacher Talk." After viewing the book and seeing the difference it made in this teacher's classroom as well as how nicely it fit in with a school goal, the decision was made to use the book with all staff members in the building.

The book is organized in mini-chapters. Each chapter is entitled with an appropriate phrase, which is then discussed on the next few pages. For example, one chapter is entitled, "Check Yourself." The chapter explains how and when to use that phrase.

At Mill Road Elementary School, we met as a staff during the summer and decided to create a school goal that focused on promoting positive communication among all members of the school community. The "Teacher Talk" book study was the perfect vehicle to establish the development of a consistent language between the staff and students that focused on student empowerment. So teachers, instructional aides, noontime aides, and reading assistants were all given a copy of "Teacher Talk." During the first faculty meeting, we discussed the first five phrases or statements. Support staff had their own meeting to discuss the first five phrases too. We continue to use in-service time and early dismissals to work our way through the book. After learning the "why" behind each phrase, we do our best to "own" the phrase by using it in a consistent and pervasive manner.

The change in the building has been incredible. In just six weeks faculty and staff are using the same language to give students an opportunity to reflect on their own behavior and to make appropriate choices. As the principal, I can tell the shift is occurring as I observe in classrooms and listen to teachers talk with students in the hallway. This shift is not always easy, since we often want to fall back on our old habits in order to solve a problem.

One day, several third-grade students were quite noisy while in the bathroom. I just happened to walk by when I heard one teacher say to another teacher, "I know I'm supposed to say something, but I am not sure what it is." I left the situation feeling hopeful, because in my mind, hearing a member of my faculty become tongue-tied was evidence that a shift was occurring.

The boy's bathroom seems to be a hotspot for mischief, so we decided to post signs that had "teacher talk" on them in order to remind the students to choose appropriate behavior. The signs read, "Are you using appropriate behavior? Check yourself." and "You are responsible for you. Check yourself." Within several days, my custodian came to me and told me she found all of the signs in the trash can. I was devastated! I really wanted to call all of the boys together and admonish them for tearing down signs that the principal had posted. After all, this was disrespectful behavior. Instead, I chose to meet with all the boys in that wing of the building. After they were seated, I told them they had to decide what they wanted to occur when they were in the bathroom. They had to choose between making it a safe place to be and making it a place where students would be concerned about what would happen while they were there. I told them I was going to post the signs again. If the signs remained on the walls, I would then know that the students were choosing to have a safe bathroom. If the signs were placed in the trash can and the mischief continued, then that would be a signal to me that students were choosing to have an unsafe bathroom.

To this day, the signs remain posted on the walls and the bathroom problems have stopped. The students are proud of this choice, as evidenced by the many times I am stopped in the hallway by students stating, "It's going well in the bathroom today, Mr. Miller: The signs are still there!"

This initiative began as a small seed planted within a teacher during a staff development opportunity. The teacher saw the value of the information learned and took the initiative to pass it along. Now our students leave the building better equipped to assess a situation and make a good choice followed by an appropriate action to benefit the school community. We continue to work on empowering our students while setting limits and modeling appropriate behavior. We are hopeful our students will value the life skills of tact, informed decision making, and listening to their inner voices.

(Reprinted from the Pennsylvania Staff Development Council newsletter, Vol. 4, Winter 2004.)

(Teachers and administrators wishing to improve their verbal interaction with students are encouraged to order our book "Teacher Talk: What It Really Means." "Teacher Talk" is available from Personal Power Press for $13.00. Call (toll-free) 877-360-1477. Purchase orders accepted. Quantity discounts are available.


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To find out more about books, tapes, and materials by Chick Moorman, contact him at (toll-free) 877-360-1477 or on the web at


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