Posts filed under ‘Teachers’

Hug a Teacher Today!

I write this blog for me. It is an outlet for a retired teacher with too much time on his hands. Never would I have expected that over 16,000 people would view this blog. The most common hits are the classroom management pages.  This tells me that there are many dedicated teachers who want to improve. Teachers striving to be better teachers! How proud this makes me to be a member of this great profession.

 

Doctors heal, Lawyers argue, accountants count, scientists seek and so on. The US literacy rate is 99%. That means that 99 of every 100 person in this country can read or write. “Have you thanked a teacher today?” It is very difficult to be a teacher today. Poor test scores, social problems, promiscuous teens, decay of moral foundations and a growing list of other ills have been laid at the doorstep of the present day teacher. It is like a brush fire being the fault of firefighters or gang violence blamed on police. Firefighters and policeman are offered better tools or improved training to help job performance. Teachers face more testing, greater demands on time and a spiraling cistern of criticism. Doctors and lawyers “police” their own profession. Teachers are evaluated and criticized by failed classroom teachers (principals and superintendents) or political figures looking for someone else to blame. Teachers have become the whipping boy of society that seeks to blame anyone but “me!”

 

Teachers can’t win! Bad test scores- bad teachers. Poor schools- poor teachers. Technology decline- faulty teachers. US lacks behind TIMMS-  unqualified teachers. Sexual promiscuity- ignorant teachers. Moral decline- decadent teachers. Deficit state budgets- overpaid teachers. Let’s face it! Eve must have been a teacher! It is her fault! The Tea Cups would fire all teachers and rehire under turn of the century regulations: warm body, ugly clothing, morally sound, bring your own coal, clean up after, and be sure to be home by the time the “street lights go on.”

Education budgets are some of the greatest expenditures that a state has to deal with. Trimming  budgets are the necessary burden of today’s leaders. Before attacking teachers who are the needed components to a successful system, we look at some of the state and federal mandated programs. Testing!  Testing! And still more testing! Do we really need all this testing? Or the time spent preparing students for the test format? Or the days to administer the tests? We already know the results- “kids need to learn more.” Social programs that foster good health or daycare services drain money needed in the classroom or cut from the budget. Excessive expenses for bulky textbooks, “administrative” travel or wasted instructional time. Teachers were once revered and are now reviled. The constant stream of abuse has had its toll on the public’s perception of teachers. The public views teachers as overpaid, under worked and unqualified. They are angry about failing schools manned by poor teachers. Test scores, politicians and the news media blare this tale!


If we are serious about improving classroom education and reducing the school budgets, ask the classroom teachers. Listen and trust their advice. Our children do learn to read and write and move on to become concerned citizens. Teachers can use a knife to slice some fat from the budget rather than the politicians would rather use an axe to trim the fat.

February 22, 2011 at 5:39 am Leave a comment

Think FUN This Year!

back to schoolBack to school! Summer is over! Labor Day has come and soon is gone. Its time to dig in and start the battle. It’s a new beginning for most but an increasing number of schools are year-round. September is always a good time for new beginnings. It’s a time to revise approaches and attitudes. Each fall teachers plant a field of learning. Teachers prepare the seeds to germinate and plan activities over the year to help these seeds of learning to grow and bear fruit.

This year teach! Have fun teaching! Let kids be kids! Allow them to learn! Learn in their way! Know that the learning at the next harvest will leave pupils a better person. Plan to do this now. NCLB has a tremendous influence in the classroom. In some cases it has become a poisonous cloud that diminishes the positive learning experiences. Plan to have some fun in learning. It is contagious and kids catch it!

Can you imagine a world without books? The knowledge and adventures offered in books provide all of us learning, entertainment and fulfillment. As this year begins, help your “seedlings” discover the joy of reading and the wealth that books hold. NCLB offers no means of measuring this vital aspect to education!

The beginning of an “appreciate a book year” is to get a library card! This is

Library Card Sign-up Month

Consider a field trip to the local library or school library. Assist each child to get a library card. Check out this site:

American Library Association

Have fun and share a little learning today!

September 4, 2009 at 10:21 pm Leave a comment

Parent/Teacher Conferences

PT confParent/Teacher Conference are a part of the teachers job description. As a professional, it is the teacher’s role to maintain a line of communication between home and school. Late Fall is a time where Parent/Teacher Conferences become a prominent issue. Public or Private. Elementary or High School. College prep or vocational schools. It makes little difference, Parent/Teacher Conferences are a fact of life for the pre-collegial teacher. There are different types of conferences basically driven by how many people are involved and what is the purpose of the conference. This time of the year the school-sponsored Parent/Teacher Conference are prevalent. These formalized conferences are by far the most demanding and exhausting. But any conferences can be nerve racking. As the school formatted day of parent/teacher conferences arrived, chances are that the teacher has already had the opportunity to confer with several parents. Teachers or parents, administrators or counselors, special education personnel can request a conference at any time for any reason. There are common components to any Parent/Teacher Conference. Experienced veterans have learned the mechanics of a Parent/Teacher Conference. Most have learned the hard way. They made mistakes and paid dearly for it. It is the intent here to provide an opportunity for the experienced teacher to refresh what they already know and offer the rookie a few pointers.

Parent/Teacher Conference can be classified according to circumstance. The following is a list of types of Parent/Teacher Conferences. These are presented as a means of discussion.

 

The School Parent/Teacher Conferences

    • Initialed by administration on a school wide basis
    • Designed to offer a chance for parents and teacher to discuss the progress of pupil.
  • The one-on-one conference
    • Initialed by teacher, administrator or parent
    • Usually to discuss an issue
    • The Phone call
      • Initialed by teacher or parent?
      • Variety reasons
    • The Informal Conference
      • Initialed by parent or teacher
      • Avoid school issue if possible
  • The small group conference
    • Initialed by an administrator or counselor
    • Usually to discuss a common problem in situations where more than one teacher interacts with a pupil
    • The Special education Conference (usually referred to as a staffing)
      • Initialed by Special Education Department
      • To determine if a child needs special Education services or update an enrolled pupil.

 

back to school text 2 Simple Reminder

THE SCHOOL PARENT/TEACHER CONFERENCES:

Each year the school organizes a Parent/Teacher Conference. In fact most schools have two conferences in the year as well as a “Back to School Night”. These conferences have a set structure. Teachers are in their classroom or, especially in secondary school, the gymnasium. The hours of the conference may be all day, late afternoon into evening or just late evening. Appointments can be made or parents can just roam in as they are available. In some cases, parents pick up report cards at a Parent/Teacher. conference. The difficulty with this conference is the volume of pupil information. Teachers can have 20 to 175 pupils. Preparing for the 20 isn’t too bad but it is difficult with 175. The key to success is to have a set routine to occupy the parents while you quickly access the pupils information. It is important to present the information without relying too much on the grade book. Appointments are much better than the random arrival. Teachers usually have no classes on Parent/Teacher Conference day. It is a rigorous and demanding day. Some school districts still require teachers to teach the school day and then host Parent/Teacher conferences until 9:00 in the evening. It is important to take a break every so often and move around. Too often the parents most wanted to be seen either do not show or arrive so late that the time is not enough to fully to discuss the problems.

THE ONE-ON-ONE CONFERENCE

Teacher initiated usually indicates a problem that needs to be addressed. The problem may be academic or behavioral. Parent initiated usually indicates a concern about something that the child is saying at home. Pupils tend to embellish things to explain away school problems. One of the most common calls comes from the parent who cannot understand why the teacher is not assigning homework. The parent goes on to say that the teacher told them that there was homework three nights out of the week. His grades are poor and he is doing poorly. When the teacher explains that there is homework assigned, the parent sometimes will shift to the argument that the teacher should have called the parent and informed her that her son is not doing his homework. The best way to avoid the issue is to have called home but sometimes mistakes can be made. The parent is right. The teacher should have called but the child not doing homework is a clear indication that a problem exists. The parent is partly at fault as well. It is best to say that a new approach on both parts is needed. The teacher should remind the parents of a rough guideline of homework assignments. The parent can then observe the work at home. When the teacher is concerned with an academic or behavior problem, parents can be helpful with identifying the problem. The teacher needs to be specific as to the identified problem: Grades on tests are very low. He seems distracted in class. He has difficulty discussing reading assignments. He talks out when the class is involved with a quiet activity. He appears to have a difficulty relating to authority figures. Teachers need to be careful not to express problems in demeaning terms or gross generalizations. THE PHONE CALL is a one-on-one but it is a quick convenient and effective means of identifying a problem. It is not good for a lot of problems or a major concern. No homework, talking out inappropriately, poor test grade, etc. THE INFORMAL CONFERENCE is a one-on-one as well. It however is the conference to avoid. Meeting a parent in a store or on the street or at a party, is not an appropriate place for a conference. Confidentiality is a concern. Approaching a parent in a public place to discuss a child’s school issue is unprofessional. A parent approaching the teacher can be a problem. In both cases, it is suggested that the teacher suggest a meeting time at school (the teacher’s office) where the child’s privacy can be maintained.

THE SMALL GROUP CONFERENCE

This conference involves a group of people and the parents. There are three kinds of Small Group Conferences: The counselor calls an academic summit with all a pupils teachers and the parents, the administrator organizes a meeting of teachers and parents to address behavior issues and the Special Education Conference which addresses issues involved in Learning Disabled pupils. These “staffings” are regulated by Federal, State and Local rules and laws. A staffing involves a special education teacher, the person running the meeting, a regular education teacher (sometimes more than one), a psychologist, social worker, nurse, academic counselor, school administrator, parents and pupil. Staffings, for obvious reasons, are confidential. Personal information is private should not be divulged or discussed outside the conference room. This is general principle for any conference. The information is privileged and like a doctor, lawyer or priest it should be kept confidential. The end product of a staffing is an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The IEP spells out the skill that needs to be addressed. Activities that address the issue. And a timeline is often included. All teachers, regular and special Education, that interact with the pupil should be aware of the IEP. Knowledgeable parents will confront the teacher during a conference to ensure that the plan is in operation.

There is so much more to be said but at this point there is more than enough to digest. Years of teaching experience help to melt the occurrences of many parent/teacher experiences into providing excellent Parent/Teacher Conferences.!

 

chalk talk 1

 

 

 

 

 

November 12, 2008 at 2:13 am Leave a comment

I Have Lost Control!

lost controlIt is October! By now you know if you are in control. What do you do if you lost control? Regaining control is not easy but here’s a few suggestions for you try. It wouldn’t be easy and it wouldn’t be quick. After all you taught them to be the way they are in a month’s time. Be patient and remember they don’t hate you. You are just the enemy right now.

Regaining control requires a plan. Go home tonight with the idea that instead of nursing your headache and complaining about “these kids today,” pour yourself a good stiff drink. The choice is yours- wine, beer, whiskey, rum, tea, soda! Tell yourself you can do this! No more feeling sorry for yourself. You need confidence.

Make a quick analysis of problem areas. (You can’t just say everything and burst into tears)! Carefully consider each aspect of your overall classroom management program. It is not just the “discipline” concerns. Start with your routines. For example, how do you pupils enter the classroom and what is expected of them when they arrive? Do you have a bell ringer? A motivation activity? A series of instructions to follow to prepare for class? A surprise quiz announced with some clues to help prepare. If pupils are noisy from the start, most probably you have lost them from the beginning. Check all your routines. How can you improve them? What routines are working (Some are!)? Routine is necessary for classroom control.

The discipline plan is the overall conduct expectations. It is the rules and consequences in your classroom. If you have already made a set of rules and consequences, review them. I suggest no more than five rules to govern the classroom. There needs to be a hierarchal system of five consequences. And there needs to be individual and class rewards. Finally there needs to be system to keep track of pupils and their consequences. This discipline plan must be filled with expectation. It provides a plan that guarantees every child has an opportunity to learn without the disruption caused by a few. Most kids, hard to believe, really do want to learn. The discipline plan provides for that opportunity and you have to enforce that plan.

It is important to have a means of keeping track of the consequences for each pupil. Look around at different classrooms, you will see a range of schemes. Some have little trees for each kid with their name on it and three or four leaves on each. Leaves fall as a consequence is noted. Traffic signals with each child’s name with a marker moves from green to yellow to red! Easiest is a book card holder with kids name on it and index cards with the kids names on it. Three color cards, like the traffic signal, are markers of consequence level. Use a clip board with a class list and put a check mark next to the name each time a consequence is tagged. Use your imagination. Just be sure to diligently keep track. It is time consuming and a pain but with the effort you will discover it gets easier and easier. It also provides a basis for how you should start next year so that you wouldn’t have this problem again!

You have to be committed to your plan and you must follow through. If your consequence is a phone call home, you had better make that call! Do not make any threat unless you follow through with it. Be sure your consequences are sequential more punitive. Start with a warning and then a conference after class. (You can make it short but it clearly appears ominous to the class). The next level could be a note home or a call home. The finally consequence is a parent conference. Phone calls and conferences have definite impact on pupils. Parents, as much as they want communication, usually do not like phone calls and conferences. You need on emergency consequence. A student who is fighting, carrying a weapon, threatening another person, acting out of control must be removed- sent to the principal’s office.

Remember you must stick with your plan. What you say is the law. You can be as nice as you like outside the classroom but during class, you have a job to do. You are responsible to design a lesson plan, provide an opportunity for all pupils to learn, and to assess the work of your pupils.

A few reminders:

  • Never, ever raise your voice
  • Know each kids name! You should know them by now! You should able to look a kid in the eye and say their name.
  • Follow through with any consequence (it is also a learning experience: cause/effect)
  • Avoid confrontation in front of class. Ask pupil to come to the door or stand outside door while you stand at threshold. Now you have the advantage. He or she has lost her audience.
  • Try not to rely on the principal’s office except in emergencies. (THINK: This is my classroom and not the principal’s. I must establish control not the principal).
  • Be fair. What you expect of one expect of the other. (goose-gander).
  • Expect the very best behavior from everyone.
  • Avoid sarcasm! Kids just don’t get it.
  • Don’t be cruel. Do not mock or make fun of someone. Do not join in a laugh that berates a pupil or another teacher.
  • Be positive.
  • No one said it was easy but once you are in control, it is a very satisfying job.

Kids do not hate you. They look to you for stability and order. Provide that for them.

Wow! I bet you are at your third or fourth drink! I hope its Friday! Now that you have a plan, how are you going to put it into action. The following are purely opinion. They may or may not work . You kind of have to decide what best fits your personality and how deeply committed you are to surviving for the year. Adapt what I say to fit your plan. No one can solve your problem. At least it will you a framework upon which to build.

If it were me:

  1. Tomorrow I would write a lengthy assignment on the board . An assignment that they are expected to begin on it immediately and without talking. (Don’t worry about trying to teach. Survival requires that establish control). Stroll about reminding pupils to work on assignment. Have a checklist. Make notes. Kids will, of course, wonder what you are writing. NO SMILES NOW! Quietly say “I am calling home to offer a personal report to each parent.” Do raise your voice! I assure you word will get around. After five minutes or so, the class will be engrossed in their assignment. Now you can take the nitty-gritty: Take attendance, collect notes or lunch money or permission slips or whatever. Do not hide! Keep in the middle of your pupils. Walk around. Do not yell or scream or rant or rave- make it on you checklist and give them “the look.”
  2. As the assignment is finished, you need another assignment to start on. Maybe math? Write a page number and the problems to be done. Collect the assignment as they finish. Give a time limit. “You have five minutes!” Call an end when the five minutes are up.
  3. Teach the pupils how to quietly form a group of four or five. You assign the pupils. After explaining, ask them to move into their group. Tell them that the assignment is on the board (see below) and they should begin immediately. A grade will be given on how well the group works together based on completing the assignment in the time allowed. Again walk around. Compliment groups that working together. Help groups who are working very well with positive suggestions. Watch the time. Remind groups, not the whole class, that there are only five minutes left. Offer a reward (you could include that with the assignment on board). Candy, sucker, gum, sticker, homework pass, sit anywhere pass, “I can take a class period off to sit in back and read” pass, be the teacher for fifteen minutes pass make good rewards.
  4. As the time nears, stand at front of class and watch to see what group and who cooperates in return to their seats. Remember your clip board- make notes!
  5. Try to find a compliment to give. Joe’s group was the first to be in place followed by Mary’s group. Bobbie’s team seemed to work well exchanging ideas. Try to find something to be positive about. Even it’s the best dressed group was.
  6. With the class, use a large poster to list your rules and consequences. One rule should be a catch all- Do what you are told the first time. Your first consequence should be a warning. Listen to suggestions. Remind them that any comments should be done by raising your hand. If they shout out, mark down and quietly remind them to raise their hands. Don’t go one too long. The outcome should be your five rules and consequences. Allow the pupils to think they belong to their thinking. Teacher’s can manipulate wording to fit the desired outcome. List several rewards. After 15-20 minutes, try to have your rules and consequences established. Inform the class that they made the rules and now you expect they will live by them.
  7. It is time to move on. Proceed with your lesson plan. If you departmentalized or secondary school, its time for the next group. Be sure to keep track of rules and consequences.
  8. Make the phone calls home as soon as possible. Start that day. The call can be quite simple. “Hello. I am so-and-so, your son’s teacher. We have been in school for a month and I just wanted to touch base with you and let you know that I am available Monday through Friday. If I am in class or a meeting, please leave a message and I will get back to you.” Important, you need something positive to say. “Billy is usually very polite and he has a charming smile. However, I have a concern about his shouting out in class. He is becoming a disruptive influence. I know if we work together, we can help Billy be the excellent student that he has the ability to be. I would appreciate if you could talk to Billy about the importance of classroom behavior and I will do the same on this end. Thanks so much for your help and I will contact you in a few weeks with an update.”
  9. Once you start the phone calls, word will spread quickly! Start with the biggest pains! Make sure you call the cute kid who is a joy in class and compliment the parents. It will do you good as well as the parents. It also let’s the class know that a positive reward call can be made. I would try to make several phone calls a day. You can call during your prep period, after school or in the evening.

If you remember to keep track of behavior over a period of time, it will give you a better handle on kids and it will help maintain control. Remember that none of the records, checklists, index card comments, etc, are permanent. They are temporary and destroyed at the end of the school year. Legal stuff!!

Good luck and hang in there. If you need help or a pep talk, feel free to email me at:

mr.ms_teacher@yahoo.com

*

chalkboard w activity

September 30, 2008 at 12:03 am 1 comment

Routine! Routine! Routine!

Hroutinesow do you, the teacher, survive the classroom and make it a positive experience for the teacher and the pupils. It is called routine. The first two weeks are the “honeymoon” time. The pupils are quiet and usually attentive. Although I have noticed that this has changed over the past few years. I have been teaching for 40 years and the last ten have been the most challenging if we forget the first year! I learned the hard way just like so many of my colleagues. A class of caged children can be every bit as harrowing as being locked up with lions and tigers and bears- Oh My! After that first year, the good teacher has learned the “trick.” It is routine and it is established in the first two weeks. Although, today’s teacher must advance that schedule and get the routine in place within the week and in some cases, some routines must be in place today! The veteran teacher has discovered that teaching and learning are possible when a structure (routine) exists. This article will help the teacher old and new to be reminded of a few ideas of establishing structure, I mean, routine!

The veteran teacher has a planned structure in mind already. It has been branded into him by the same experience that the rookie teacher is now experiencing: trial and error and terror. The terror leads to discovering a routine that works or leads to the principals office with a trail of tears and a letter of resignation. Frustration is the outgrowth of no routine. The rookie learns. The only place that the experience pays off is in the classroom on your own with just you and the pupils over time. This is the purpose of student teaching experiences. Sad to say, many school systems require the cooperating teacher to remain in the classroom while the student teacher is teaching. I appreciate the concerns legally but… Having the veteran teacher glaring at the backs of his pupils heads does little for the student teacher to learn those techniques that work or not. As a result, the rookie teacher thinks everything is rosy and heads off to their first assignment with a distorted idea of how it works. Student teaching provides the experience of standing in front of the class and teaching but little of creating an environment of learning. Routines are either established or maintained by the cooperating teacher.

First, let’s consider routine. What is it? It is how the teacher wants the body of students or individuals within the body to react to certain needs within the classroom. For example, the most common routine that all teachers are reminded of each year: FIRE DRILL! Teachers are reminded to explain where to the pupils go and how they behave during a fire drill and often indicate a consequence if the routine is not met. A routine then involves a trigger, that is, an event or action that leads to an established course of events, the reaction. In the case of the fire drill, the loud, obnoxious, irritating alarm creates an adrenaline rush. This is the trigger or action. The routine, developed by the teacher, is to stand and quietly move out of the classroom following a prescribed path to an exterior door. After exiting the door, pupils are to gather in a predetermined location where attendance is taken. Various pupils are assigned tasks, such as, close classroom door making sure everyone has exited and another pupil holds exterior door for class to exit building. A third pupil acts as a flagpole for class to gather about. (My experience has been to lead the class out. Some schools mandate that the teacher follow the class. You must do as the school policy dictates but, if given the option, lead the class. That way if a real fire or danger should confront the class, the teacher should be able to make a decision quickly and lead the class to alternate route). I always find it a good idea to explain to the class both for the need of fire drills and the reason for the various expectations during a fire drill. At this time I also propose a consequence for failure to follow the fire drill instructions. Therefore, a routine involves an action that leads to a set of reactions that result in a “good thing.” Associated with failure to live up to the routine comes a consequence.

Second, establish routines immediately or they will be established by your pupils. During the first few weeks, the teacher has to establish the routines desired. Pencils need to be sharpened. Should they be sharpened at the start of the day or anytime the pupil wants. Can a pupil who needs to sharpen a pencil just get up during a activity and go to the pencil sharpener? How many can go at a time? What happens when 15 pupils get up and move to the pencil sharpener? This is a petty little non-teaching task that must be addressed. Suggestion: Pencils are to be sharpened before the class begins. A monitor (in grade school) will call rolls or tables to go to sharpener. If a pencil needs to be sharpened after class begins then the teacher might have a pencil jar for pupils to borrow from with the understanding that a consequence follows. Sounds good! So what do you, the teacher, do when a student gets out of their seat and moves to the pencil sharpener? You have laid out a routine and this pupil is not following the routine. (This is the “test!” Pupils will always test the teacher especially in the first few weeks. The teacher must be alert for this “test” and be prepared to react. Even if its a gentle reminder). The teacher must respond or the routine means nothing. “Sarah. We sharpen our pencils at the start of class. If you need to use a pencil, I will loan you one.” You want to do this as quietly and least intrusively as possible. All the other pupils are watching. If you don’t say something, the routine means nothing. If you overreact, the lesson is disrupted and you have created a means for the pupil who seeks attention to find it in the future. This is the need for practice to discover what works and what don’t! The teacher needs to be watchful in the first few weeks to get those routines established.

Some common routines that will need to be addressed are determined by age group. Preschool, Primary (1-3), Intermediate (4-6), Upper grade (7-8) and High School (9-12). Generally routines that need to addressed are:
1) Entering the classroom
2) Taking a seat
3) Preliminary or Starting Activity
4) Classroom supplies that should be available to the pupil
5) Routines specific to learning activity
*raising hand in discussion
*taking notes in lecture
*remaining with group in team activities
*noise level maintenance
*asking questions of teacher in different activities
6) Following classroom rules
7) Using materials within the classroom
8) Using the washroom
9) Talking with the teacher
10) homework collection
11) homework distribution
12) Taking Attendance
13) Notes to the office
\
The list goes on from here. Plan ahead and be prepared. Failure to have a plan results in the routine being established outside the teacher’s control. When you hear the administrator’s and other teacher’s talk about “having control,” this is what they mean. Control is having the routines your way. Once a routine is established it runs entirely on its own with only an occasional test. Of course, if the routine is one the teacher does not like it is tough to change it. Once routines are established, it is very, very difficult to change That is one reason that beginning teachers experience so much difficulty. Experience leads to developing routines and controlling the classroom so that a positive learning environment can be established. The control is in the teacher hands and that means the teacher can teach and the pupil can learn.

September 10, 2008 at 11:30 pm 1 comment

Sum-Sum Summer Time!

forever summerIt’s Summer time! No bells! No “kids” roaming here and there. No rushing! No structure. No “behavior modification” needs! No grades! No reports! No paperwork! No! No! No! Isn’t it grand!

It is sleeping in! Staying up late. Extra cup of coffee. Morning newspaper. Laying out in the sun. Doing as you want. Go potty when you want! Smiling and laughing without fear of repercussions. Reading. Relaxation. Ah! Summer!

“Summer is also a good time to prepare!” Says I.

“PREPARE?!!” Says you!

“You got time and no pressure.” Says I.

“No way!” Says you.

“Okay! But there are things you can do that will improve you teaching and ….” Says I.

“Teaching! Yuck! It’s summer!” “Says you.

“Sorry! But good teachers balance summer chill with rethinking or active planning or learning something new.” Says I.

“Really?” Says you. “Right!”

Teachers find the summer a great time to do some rethinking and new thinking. There is no pressure to “get it done!” Travel, take a course, read a book, design a new unit, revise things that did not work- You exercise the right to do as you will. You can work at your pace. You can sup coffee or a cocktail. You stop when you want. You can work as long or as short as you wish. You control your time!

Some teachers unfortunately must work during the summer. I have taught summer school (yuck – double yuck!). I developed curriculum (Not bad). Worked with others on a committee to develop philosophy, handbook, disciplinary policy, etc. Jobs outside teaching are good! I have worked as a summer naturalist (somewhat like teaching). I worked in a hospital business office. I worked as an advocate in the state’s Attorney General’s Office (really cool!). I worked as a wilderness guide in the BWCA out of Ely, Minnesota (mellow)! A friend of mine was Mr. Twinkle one summer. He was so good, he was invited back. I finally reached a point where I made enough money during the year to enjoy the summer. It was at this point that I actually began to have the time to think about teaching- the why and how.

What are you doing for the summer? Above all be sure to get away from “teacher routine” or “school routine.” Summer is the time to refresh so that when you return to the classroom, you will be fresh! What is the fastest time of the year- SUMMER! So don’t spend all summer thinking of what to do- do it!

July 10, 2008 at 7:04 pm Leave a comment

You Need Some Sense to be a Teacher

Student Raising HandtantrumTeachers like every other human being have the senses of sight, hearing, tasting, smelling and touching. These senses are used to perceive what is happening in the surrounding world. Changes in the environment are sensed and transmitted to our brains which based on previous experience conveys a response. Something never experienced causes a pause while the brain analysis and determines an appropriate response. Trail and error come into play at this point. The body’s response system learns by error. It tries a response and learns by trial as well as error. An inappropriate response provides a new stimulus that may be recognized by the brain. As experiences develop over time, learning occurs.

Teachers are learners. They use their senses to become skilled at leading the neophytes learners into a new world that they have not yet travel. Successful teachers use the five senses just like the learners do. However, successful teachers also use the other senses. Everyone has heard of the sixth sense: the extra sensory, higher perception and intuition aspects of humans. It is this sense that defies scientific measurement. Not that they have not tried but they collect data and then question if it means anything. They can’t really prove anything. Teachers know that there are more senses than just the five. Common sense tells them that.

In order to survive in teaching and become an effective learning guide, the teacher needs to use the “other” senses. You have heard said “Teachers have an eye in the back of their head.” It’s true they do. It’s called the sense of awareness. Teachers must be aware at all times at what is happening in the room. Perhaps it’s the view from the front of the room, but teachers see all. They can see Billy pulling that candy sucker from his desk. Mary is secretly reading a book. Martha has a note to read. Ralph is doodling in his notebook. George is looking at the teacher but he is have an OBE (out of body experience). All this is happening as the teacher is explaining the next activity. As this is occurring the wise teacher must decide if the interruption of “Billy put that candy away!” is more disruptive than letting it go until later. Without the sense of awareness, the teacher is easily replaced with a babbling machine.

Teachers are often called in to settle a dispute. The pupils expect that the teacher has a sense of justice. The teacher can tell them: what is right and wrong, who has the rightful claim, or how to settle the dispute. Teachers are all knowing (until proven otherwise). Pupils will look expectantly at the teacher to make a just decision. Wise teachers, however, avoid hasty decisions when it involves students and their disputes. The wise teacher attempts to have the students resolve the conflict on their own. The teacher can act as a arbitrator. The teacher also has to decide at what point this dispute has to be settled. A “friendly” or “class related” dispute can often be left to the group or pair to resolve on their own. More involved disputes may require more time than what the teacher has available and may have to put it off until “out-of-class” time. Amazing how many disputes get settled quickly on their own. Disputes of a more serious nature may require a greater intervention than just the teacher can provide. Wise teachers avoid providing justice too readily. Justice is best left to those that have the authority to administer justice. The important factor is for the pupils to perceive a sense of justice not necessary justice itself.

When a teach is placed in a situation that requires admonishment, detention (yuck!), call home, note, or whatever, the sense of fairness come into play. Pupils always watch! They always watch! They measure the punishment metered out to this one or that. To the jock or the nerd. To the boy or the girl. To the charmer or the dullard. The teacher sharply tells Mary to sit while the class is listening. A month later, James does the same thing, the same response is expected. To be fair brings the legionaire of honor award! Each pupil can respect the fair teacher. Mean or mousy. Kind or cruel. Makes no difference. As long as the teacher is fair. Wise teachers hold dearly to the sense of fairness.

The pupil whose feelings are hurt or carries a pain from home needs the teacher’s sense of caring. Hugs are out these days as are hands on the shoulder. Some kids really need a hug! Wise teachers have learned means to transfer their caring and concern without endangering their career and future life. This is the most difficult of all the senses to maintain a balance. It is one of the senses that force young inexperienced teachers to flee the field. The wise teacher does not become hardened, they learn to deal with it. The sense of caring is the hardest to carry home. It is not possible to solve the problems of broken homes, street gangs, personal issues, or a host of other social problems. The wise teacher will try to equip the pupils with the power to change things from the pupil’s world from inside out. It is the best way to show the sense of caring. Wise teachers help their pupils overcome the handicaps of their world.

Most of all, teachers must have a sense of humor. Without that, life becomes overbearing and depressing. Laugh, smile, chuckle, giggle- the world with you in it is funny. The world is a place to laugh. Whether the teaching occurs in the deepest recesses of the inner city or the most affluent corner of the suburbs. Even in the back areas of the rural country, the pains and suffering of the world scream out. Children carry luggage regardless of their surroundings or economic situation. The wise teacher knows that the child has to carry his own luggage. The teacher can only try to help the child find a way to carry it without as much pain. A teacher might even help that child to a point where the luggage can be tossed aside. The wise teacher helps a child smile and even laugh. The wise teacher has a knack to have children laugh with each other rather than at each other. The wise teacher uses the sense of humor as often as possible. The wise teacher loves to laugh and always smiles- but “not ’til after Thanksgiving!”

Besides the five science senses, teachers have five pedagogue senses. Like a newborn exploring the five senses, the rookie educator practices the “teacher senses.” Only with time does the rookie grow into the experienced educator and then into the seasoned veteran and finally retires as the wise teacher. Smile and laugh and chuckle and giggle and titter and chortle and grin- just remember “Smile and the whole world smiles with you!”

peeking in

April 29, 2008 at 1:34 am Leave a comment

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