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Deborah Poulos-The Women Who Has Captivated Us All.

Deborah Nichols has already beaten many odds in life, like being diagnosed with ALS even amidst her teaching career. But if there’s one thing that’s apparent, it’s her strength, determination, and pure love of wanting to help her students. The Conscious Teacher: What All Teachers & Engaged Parents Need to Know to Be More Effective is both a personal account of her life during her twenty-seven years of teaching and all the lessons she’s learned to help teach children more effectively.

Can you tell us what "The Conscious Teacher" is about and what some of your approaches are to create a conscious learning environment?

The Conscious Teacher is an up close and personal look at how a truly conscious teacher can help all students reach their full potentials. I taught for twenty-seven years, eight of which were in a fourth-grade self-contained gifted class. My book focuses on the elementary years and covers the basics for everything you need to know to teach fourth through sixth grades.

One of the most important chapters is First Things First. It is so important to set the stage for effective learning. I describe how I get to know students by reading through each cumulative record file before the first day of school. I learn about any issues they have with learning, their family situations, and their report cards from earlier years. I memorize their names with their photos so that I can welcome each one by name on the first day of school. They look up at me with their eyes wide open. I imagine they’re thinking, “Whoa, she already knows me.” This is a powerful tool that tells each student that I think they are important.

I organize a seating chart that puts students who need help next to students who can help them. I put students with behavior issues near the front of the class next to well-behaved students who can buffer them. Students create a behavior management system with consequences if standards are not met, and they sign it. I set up a silent signal so that when a student misbehaves, they take a time-out outside the classroom, coming back in when they are in control of their behavior. In this way I don’t reward bad behavior with attention. That’s the only way to extinguish bad behavior.

I meet each student at his or her level so that I can nurture learning. Students who are working below grade level must be met at their level in order to be pulled up to grade level. Students who can do above grade level work must be pushed to achieve at their level so that they become comfortable with being challenged. I teach students the “five finger rule,