The Test

Beginning teachers, and some veterans, look back at the start of a new school year amazed at how quiet and orderly the class gad been. What happened? Simple! The teacher failed The Test. The test of who is in control. It is subtle and subversive. It is not a planned test- it just happens. The unwary teacher may not even be aware of it. It unfolds from the very moment the first pupils appear at the classroom door.

All teachers face this test each time a new group of learners arrive at the classroom door. The operative word here is “learners.” There are no adjectives, such as, potential, eager, dismayed, prospective, etc. Only the word learner is shown. Every child who walks through the door of the classroom is a learner. They will learn. It may not be what you want them to learn but they will learn. How effective a teacher is in getting them to learn what is expected is determined by the test.

In the previous post, it was stated that preparation is the stratagem for success. In order for this plan to work, it is necessary to have the appropriate tactics. These are your behavioral management skills. The battle for control of maintaining these particular skills is the subject of the test. The best laid plans of mice or men are useless without the power to put the plan into operation.

As the new pupils sit quietly hanging upon each word that is uttered or each activity engaged in, the test is in progress. A student speaks out. This may seem good but do should that pupil have raised their hand or not? To pass the test, identify the behavior and indicate the way it should be done in this classroom: “Thank you, Harry for supplying the answer but we need to raise our hands. Mary breaks her pencil point and quietly gets out of her seat to sharpen her pencil. “Mary, I see you broke your pencil and needs sharpening. But, in the future, Could you raise the pen and point so I know everything is ok.”  All of this constitutes a test. It is not a concerted affair but rather a series of events that is best identified by the teacher. If Harry can speak out, then Larry can shout out. The teacher must have made a decision about what is acceptable before it happens. It is in these first few days and weeks that the teacher creates the atmosphere that is part of the overall plan.

Explicit versus implicit curriculum. The explicit is all the nicely and painstakingly prepared. The implicit is the milieu in which it all happens.  The stage must be set before the play is performed.

How does a teacher pass the test? Like everything else in teaching, anticipate and plan. College teacher-preparation classes emphasize the word plan: plan the lesson, plan the curriculum, plan the holidays, plan the field trips, plan the testing activities, plan the potty trips, plan the party. Plan, plan, plan…. The previous post stressed the need to be prepared for the first day. To pass the test the teacher must have a plan of the overall behavioral management plan.

Review the behavioral classroom management plan each year. What is expected of the student in terms of their behavior? Raise hand? Freely leave seat? Noisily entering classroom? Talking to neighbors? Chewing gum or candy? Cell phones? Make a list. Expand each year. It is part of the overall plan.

The test is strongest in the first week or two. Vigilance and fairness are the keywords in putting the plan into operation. The overwhelming measure of a good teacher from the pupil viewpoint is fairness. What’s good for Larry better be good for Mary. If Harry is told not to talk out of turn and Barry has to be reminded as well. It important to be very cognizant of what is happening in the classroom. Omnipotent is the teacher attribute to exhibit these first few weeks.

How the teacher is perceived early on is vital to the effectiveness in accomplishing lessons later in the year. Children learn. It may not be what we intend them to learn  but they will learn something. The implicit teaching actions often have a greater impact on learning than what is given credit. Learning by example is the most effective approach to classroom activities. The teacher creates this world for children to learn in by example through behavioral management skills.

It’s the first day! Eyes open! Ears alert! Face friendly but businesslike! Mind set to the classroom as a place of learning! Watch for any activities that would make a good example of what or what not to do. Give them candy or a scowl. Establish the rules of this classroom. These are the days that may well result in a great learning experience for pupils and teacher the rest of a person’s life.

August 13, 2010 at 8:12 pm Leave a comment

Start the Year: It’s Only the First Day!

The first day of class is the most important day of the school year. You will have the greatest attention your students. Take advantage while you can. A good essay begins with a preview of what is to come. Start off with the most important things. Before you begin your first day, have your classroom ready. Desk alignment and necessary materials available and ready. Seating charts are important. The idea is to demonstrate that you are in command.

Before you begin this day, there are some things that need to be done. Consider the school’s overall goals, objectives, outcomes or standards. How does your class expectations fit into that projection. This is what needs to be addressed on day one. Your student will be a different person when they finish your class. The first day should project what your last day will be.  Show them what you expect of them. Start off with the most important things.

In order to achieve that end, there has to be a theater to provide an opportunity to learn. Like any theater there are rules to follow for everyone’s benefit. Classroom rules provide this environment. Have a poster that clearly offers your classroom rules. There are a variety of classroom management formats. Whatever plan you decide to follow, rules are usually a part of it. Remember KISS! The simpler the better.

Years ago a great workshop I attended helped me immensely: Lee Canter’s Assertive Disciple. Over time I modified some of the aspects but the general concepts have become a beacon for me to follow. He suggested no more than five rules. The last rule -Let’s call it Rule 5- is always: “Do what you are asked to do the first time.” It is a catch-all. If you ask a student to sit down and he/she fails to do so, they have broken a rule. If you ask them to stop talking and they fail to do so, they broke a rule. It covers all those nitty-gritty details of daily life.

What you chose as your rules need to be carefully considered. These are rules need to be enforceable, clear and important. (Remember Rule 5 covers all the minor details). My rules were:

  • You must be in your seat with requested materials (see board) on desk when class bell rings.
  • You are expected to have all the classroom materials as listed on first day handout.
  • Assigned class work (home work, library research, lab reports, etc) is due on day assigned.
  • You can expect to be treated fairly but you are expected to treat others fairly.
  • Do what you are asked to do the first time

First day handouts are vital in today’s world of “The teacher did” attitude. Teachers seem to be the blame for school systems going bankrupt, student’s not being motivated and low ability students failing high ability tests. Without a handout to list classroom supplies needed, homework policy and classroom rules, the teacher is susceptible to such statements as:

“I didn’t know!”

“You never told us!”

“My daughter never has homework!”

“You never told me that my kids needed pencils!”

“My daughter says you’re a dumb teacher!”

You may be accused of these things anyway but if you have it written down it helps when the administration is too willing to accept the pupil or kid’s word over yours. It might be a good idea to have a tear-off at the bottom to be signed by the parent and returned.

Other things for the first day that might be included:

  • Assign seats. (Do quickly and without fuss. I used to put cards on desk or a textbook with their name. Time consuming but helps with first day order).
  • Begin a learning lesson
  • Distribute texts
  • Have students write or draw something
    • I used to have them write a letter to themselves in May or next year. Amidst the moans ands groans, I pointed out that I expected them to be a different person nine months from now. The moans of August become smiles and tears in May.
  • Ice breakers to get kids to interact (Be careful, these can get out-of-hand. Your first day needs to establish order! I used to use these on second day)
  • Many kids are very excited about starting school, don’t leave them down.

Any movement exercises need to be planned carefully. Organization and no-nonsense need to be the projected to the pupils. The teacher is in command. Beware of falling into a trap that requires you to raise your voice or appear hassled. Watch the clock! Remember that attention levels are high but short! Keep your activities moving along. Avoid getting bogged down on one thing. There is always tomorrow. You got off to a good start. Now be sure to finish in style. Do not let the bell control your students. Before the end of class, take a few seconds or minute to thank you pupils and bid them farewell.

Go Home and have a nice glass of wine as you revise your lesson plan.. But smile there is only so long till a break!

August 11, 2010 at 7:46 pm Leave a comment

Thoughts on Being a Teacher

teacher.jpg

If test scores are the measure of a teacher’s quality, then I am a great failure. The students that I have taught in the past 15 years did not score well on ACT’s or ISAT’s. They probably left high school to get married or go to work in some menial job. A few will go to a community college to become trained in a trade of some sort. I feel I had as much a positive impact on these “kids” as I did with the super brains that I taught my first 15 years. The early years I guided young people to aspire to be doctors, lawyers and business owners. In my latter years, I helped young people become patients, clients and employees. I hope that I steered each group to discover something of themselves and be tolerant of the something in others. I hope that I offered an example of being a learner for life. What you do is not so important as how you do i

This is what makes a good teacher. Test scores are diagnostic tools to help teachers and administrators design ways of improving a child’s education. Every child is an individual. To apply test scores as a blanket to cover all students is ludicrous. Children not only learn differently but at different rates. This is not an earth-shattering concept. Parents take their babies to the doctor. The baby is weighed and measured. Some babies are shorter than others. As the doctors tell these parents, it is okay some babies are shorter than others. They may catch up later, they may not. Test scores are a measure too. Some kids may catch up later, some may not. That’s life. It does not mean you are deficient or abnormal. You are a part of the range. If the doctor notices no improvement over time, diagnostic tests might be in order. How does education handle this?

Education designs school improvement programs. Politicians, local school boards and administrators incorporate these into the schools. It often takes years for new programs to installed in school systems. Change in education has been traditional slow. As frustrating as this can be, it often proves a good filtering system. Beneficial alterations survive the quick fix excitement. Consider the following partial list of programs:

  • Behavior objectives
  • Programed learning
  • Learning packets
  • Self paced learning
  • Barrier-less schools
  • Big schools
  • Little schools
  • Little schools in big schools
  • School Improvement plans (SIP’s)
  • Outcome-based learning
  • Standards
  • Integrated learning
  • Hands-on
  • Constructivism
  • Piaget
  • NCLB

Education is always searching for improvements and new approaches. This is a good thing. Education has never been stagnant. It is dynamic and evolving. Good teachers are able to adapt to these demands. Good teachers will always create a classroom filled with opportunities to learn. Good teachers recognize that students have different learning styles. Like these learning styles, teachers have a variety of teaching styles. There is nothing wrong with this. The driving question in education is what makes a certain teacher so great? Its his or her style. It’s the climate they establish within their classroom. Teachers are not robots. They relate to their students and motivate them. They offer a path with a light to seek. The means of achieving that end might be wildly different for each student but the good teacher is able to encourage and lead his or her students.

I come from Chicago area. Like so many large cities and small, the news media feeds us a daily diet of death, beatings and violence. I see innocent children shot or beaten and I feel pain. I see the violent beating of a high school student with a crowd watching and wonder why. I read of a young girl raped with a crowd of voyeurs cheering the events. Someone points to the schools as a the source of the problem or the means of the solution. Schools have always been the natural place to solve society’s problems. Nuclear bomb drills, immunization requirements, school breakfasts, free lunches, buses to integrate, driver education, good health, test scores: These all had a basis in a need to try to improve a social issue. In most cases, the programs were underfunded or vaguely designed. Measuring the impact of these programs are unclear. There are still sick children who are hungry. There are still segregated neighborhoods and poverty. There are bad drivers and obese youngsters. We still do these in hopes that they will have some impact. We will create other programs in the future to solve other issues. There is nothing wrong with attempting to improve life. The press, politicians and public need to realize that schools are doing the best that they can.

I am retired now and I miss the interaction in the classroom. I miss the challenge. I miss the banter of learning. I have been fortunate to have touched so many lives. I have roller-coasted from one end of the bell to the other. It has been a great trip. What I have discovered over all those years is that its not the test scores or the honors or trophies or ribbons: it’s the light in a child’s face when they finally get it. It’s the smile a kids shares with his classmate. It’s the voice of a student who once stood silent. It is great to have been a teacher!

apple.jpg

November 9, 2009 at 11:46 pm Leave a comment

Ladybug! Ladybug!

Great Projects for Great Teachers

ladybug

Ladybug! Ladybug!
Fly away home.
Your house is on fire.
And your children all gone.
All except one,
And that’s little Ann,
For she crept under
The frying pan.

Ears to the ground and eyes on the horizon! Every quality teacher is in constant search for the new experience to bring into their classroom. Extraordinary teachers go beyond the textbook and find relevant activities that stimulate their pupils to learn. You must be an extraordinary quality teacher (EQT) because you are here! You are searching to become a better teacher. You are interested in creating a classroom environment that is special!

In case you missed it! This is worth exploring:

http://lostladybug.org/index.php

Ladybugs are tiny fascinating creatures that offer an opportunity to open a door to learning.

Can you ask for more?

This project is adaptable to every grade level. It can be integrated with math, science, and civics (Ohh! That’s an old word!).

Inventive elementary teachers can even incorporate art and music into the adventure.

This is well worth the look. Give it some thought.

New approaches and ideas are always good!

Related sites:

http://www.dltk-teach.com/rhymes/ladybug.htm

http://www.geocities.com/sseagraves/schoolyardscience.htm

http://www.ladybuglady.com/

September 6, 2009 at 8:48 pm 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

IT’S MAY! IT’S MAY! IT’S THE….

Chrysanthemum

“It ain’t over till it’s over.” — Yogi Berra

 

 

Like any good teaching lesson, there needs to be an end. The end lets the teacher and pupil know it’s over. Soon it will be time to evaluate the year’s teaching efforts.

Close! It has been a long journey. Now its near its finish. As with any trip, there were good moments and disappointing ones. Hopefully, this year’s adventure will be a memorable one. Some years are quickly put aside while others are years to relish. It’s a little early to appraise this year.

The voyage is not over. It is near an end but a good excursion needs a conclusion. May is the month to tie up loose ends and bring projects to an end. Summary and closing are the focus for activities for this month.

If the teacher is rushing to finish the curriculum, there is a problem. Next year, this teacher needs to review where the program fell apart. There are a number of reasons for failure to complete the curricular content. In too many cases, the curriculum needs a revision. Inexperienced teachers and some veterans become frustrated when the fault lies with the curriculum. Of course there are times that the teacher bears responsibility. Too much wasted hours watching videos or going off on irrelevant tangents can leave time short in May. There are times where the class needed more than usually reinforcement activities. Whatever the case, trying to cramp the last material into this time of year is fruitless. Pupils are not open to be cramped with any more. They are ready for the closing activities.

Mother’s Day activities fill many great creative activities. If you did plant the marigolds, now it’s payoff time. Suggest that the student’s bring in a cup or glass. (If its allowed, have kids chip in and buy a bunch of plain cups). Whatever, use the container and have the kids decorate the container. (This even works with secondary biology students).

Magnificent Social Studies Adventures
§ The first post card was issued in 1873. Do your pupils know what a post card is? Most will recognize an advertising piece of junk mail. Post cards also are collected as evidence of adventures on vacations. Less popular today as years ago but still a fun geography activity. Gather post cards from as many locations as possible and mark it on a world map.
§ The Empire State Building opened, 1931
>>What other tall building are there? What is the tallest today?
§ Captain John Smith landed at Jamestown, 1607
>>Pocahontas and the first settlement in new world.
>>What’s the true story?
§ The only Presidents born this month is Harry S. Truman on May 9, 1884 and John F. Kennedy on May 29, 1917.

Great Science Investigations
§ On May 14, Lewis & Clark’s expedition began in 1804. Observations of nature. Exploration as a adventure in science.

Monthly Math
§ Too late to begin something new! Review and piece together the material studied. A glimpse into how this year’s learning will carry them into the next year.

Language Arts
§ The yearbook project
>>What a great idea! Use this collaborate project to create an end of the year “yearbook.” Pictures, cartoons, stories, math, science, social studies and physical education events can be relived. The use of fine arts and language arts are incorporated into this creative fun end of the year culmination activity.

Fine Arts
§ First United States newspaper cartoon published in Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette in1754
§ Draw a cartoon or a good collaboration project. Especially as part of the “yearbook” project.

Physical Education
§ Babe Ruth hit his first and last home run in May (1915 and 1935). Great time to review baseball rules and even play a game outside. (Permission slips needed).

Do you know…earthrise

This is International Year of Astronomy 2009

Check it out at

http://www.astronomy2009.org/

April 30, 2009 at 11:12 pm Leave a comment

April

 

spring path

Do not follow where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson ~

This Month’s look for New Beginnings and lots of laughs (it is good for your health!)

Teacher Trash Talk

Spring Break has either just finished or will begin soon. Spring has stirred some restlessness in pupils. As the sun warms the day and the buds appear on many shrubs, thoughts of summer and the break from the classroom routine settles into both to pupils and teachers alike. Many schools administer some type of standardized testing or state testing during April. As much as many pupils seem to slough off the idea of testing, the stress of doing well or not doing poorly is a big factor.

Testing is worth a few words. Brighter pupils strive to do well. These highly motivated individuals stress themselves in their drive to do well. It is what makes them better students rather than just pupils. On the other hand, pupils who struggle with academics often cringe at the thought of testing of any kind. Older pupils see standardized tests as just another means of confirming their view of themselves- “I am dumb!”

The teacher needs to develop strategies to help their students and pupils cope with standardized testing. In far too many schools, specific time is expected to be spend teaching pupils to “take the test.” Administrators, politicians and anyone directly not involved with your pupils will push you to stress the importance of this testing to the school’s image, the state’s requirements, the value of real estate and the evaluation of the teacher. Oh Yes! Pupils will get something out it!

Opps! Sorry! I don’t want to get on my soapbox. It is pretty clear where I stand on standardized testing that is used for non-diagnostic purposes.

It’s spring! The flowers are pushing through the soil and the buds on the trees are bursting open. It is a time to feel good! Smile and be happy.

Among a wealth of great events for April are:

The 4th is School Librarian Day. Thank a librarian. Go to the library. Pupils should have a library card.
The 7th is No Homework Day. (See my upcoming post on Homework!)

Magnificent Social Studies Adventures
Presidential Birthdays:
<> Thomas Jefferson (April 13)
<> James Buchanan (April 23)
<> Ulysses S Grant (April 27)
<> James Monroe (April 28)

Great Science Investigations
<> Famous Apollo 13 mission occurred in 1970
<> Great tale of space exploration
<> Humans travel to Mars
<> Walk on Moon
<> Laws of motion
<> Gravity

<> Plant studies
<> Seed germination
<> Planting the home garden
<><> ® Could your school provide a small patch for a garden?

Monthly Math
<> Apollo 13 provides ample opportunity to discuss
<> Angles and prediction
<> Trigonometry
<> Effects of forces

Language Arts
<> April 23 William Shakespeare was born in1564.
<> He died on the same day, 52 years later, in 1616
<> Historical Fiction
<> Writing poems

Fine Arts
<> Still life
<> flowers

Physical Education
<> Get outside!!
<> Baseball rules

 

Explore the Web:

http://www.openeducation.net/
Great sight for articles about teaching. Not a resource.
http://scout.wisc.edu/About/subscribe.php
The Scout Report (Publication of the Internet Scout Project)
Sponsored by University of Wisconsin
Great site. Subscribe to weekly email. Lists of fantastic sites of interest.

March 30, 2009 at 11:36 pm Leave a comment

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