Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Some "Truths" About Teaching!

Since I'm not at work because of Hurricane Sandy, it gave me some time to peruse Pinterest, and I came across this poster. I think it's funny.:)
It also made me think about some of the "truths" about teaching, especially if someone is choosing to go into this profession now. So, here are my "truths."

  • You can not go to the bathroom whenever you want. You will have to either hold it, or get someone to watch your class. Depending on how desperate you are, you will either run to the Teacher's bathroom, or use the student one. (I never use the student one unless there are no kids)
  • You will be thrown into a classroom and told to teach. Nowadays though, you don't have to worry too much, because they tell you what to teach, how long to teach it ("I hate you pacing guide!"), and when to teach it. Oh, and lest I forget, what to say while you are teaching it. ("Script, please!")
  • You will be unindated with paperwork. Tons and tons of paperwork. You will have to fill out attendance, field trip, DPAS, you name it, you fill it out. At least now, you fill it out electronically.
  • You will be judged by a walkthrough (in my district, it's 5 minutes), and/or an observation by your principal. The 45 minutes they spend in your room will determine whether you can teach, or not. If they really think you're horrible, then they will be in your room constantly looking for what you are doing wrong. (And don't get on an improvement plan, I've heard those are nightmares!)
  • You will attend endless, meaningless, workshops and staff meetings. We have a meeting every time I blink my eyes. PLC, Achievement Team, Curriculum Club, Committee, I can't go on. It's as if they think we will gather together and drink, instead of using that time to do something constructive in our classrooms.
  • Lunch will be on the go, unless you are fortunate to be at a school where lunch is an hour. (I used to work at a school like that.) By the time you get the kids to the lunchroom, or get ready for the rest of the day, your lunch period is over, done, gone!
  • Everyone is not going to like you. Parents, students, administration, or even other teachers. ("Que sera, sera.")
  • Another "new" thing will be thrown at you at least once a month. And do not believe the hype, "It's something you already do." Really? Then why the need to hold me captive, at yet another workshop or meeting, to tell me about it if I am already doing it?
  • Get ready to dig in your pocket. I always say I am not, but I always do. Every. single. year. I know I shouldn't, but....
  • No one understands what you do, but another teacher.
  • Some days you will just want to quit.
BUT... here are  positive "truths" about teaching!
  • Every day is a new and exciting day! Each day brings its own rewards and I am never bored.
  • You do make a difference. Even if it is one child, you have made a difference.
  • Teaching  can make you laugh, cry, or just plain, infuriate you, but it will most definitely bring you many warm and fuzzy, moments.
  • You get to see the look on a child's face when they "get it." ("Priceless!")
  • You come into contact with some wonderful people. Whether it's students, parents, administration, or your local (or worldwide) PLN!(Professional Learning Network)
  • Depending on  how you teach, it can be a lot of fun! 
  • It is an honorable profession. A profession that, no matter how much I gripe, I am proud to be a part of! :)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Is It Something I Said?: What We Say...What They Hear!

I received an email from a parent the other day. It wasn't a hostile email. It was written in a polite tone. It was just a parent trying to find out what was going on in my classroom regarding his daughter. If this happened with my kids, I probably would have written an email like it as well. I also really appreciated the fact that this parent sent the email to me, instead of going straight to my principal.

The email went something like this: "K" was very upset last night. She told her mother that you said to her "I don't know how you passed fourth grade. Can you tell me why you would say this?"

 Well,when I read this email, my jaw dropped, and I immediately responded to the Dad.(I know you're supposed to wait, but I wasn't angry) I told him I would love to have a face to face conference because this was the second time his daughter told them something that was not true. But more than that, I wanted these parents, who are wonderful, supportive, parents, to be able to look me in the face, as I told them that those words never, ever, came out of my mouth.

 Later in the day, I pulled the child aside and asked her about it. She said, "Remember when you were helping me? You said, "I don't know how you ever passed fourth grade!" Now, I know there are teachers who say this, and worse, to their students. And, I don't want you to believe that  I am some kind of teacher saint. But, I would never, ever, say that to a child. Ever. That kind of teacher, I am not.

 But, she believed I said it. She is new, so at the time I was helping her, maybe I asked if they taught that concept in the 4th grade, or something to that effect, but..anyway....it really bothered me.

 Later in the week, I took another a student aside and had the "You need to get organized" talk with him. I explained to him that he is going to middle school and he needs to be organized because he will switch classes in middle school. I helped him set up his materials and was satisfied with what we had accomplished in getting him together.

 As we left for the day, something made me think of the student I mentioned in the beginning of this post and  I took the "disorganized" student aside. I said, "Do you understand what I was saying to you earlier?" He replied, "Yes." I said, "What did I say?" He replied, "If I don't get organized, I am never going to get anywhere."

 Wow! Needless to say, I had to have a quick talk to get rid of that misconception! What I said, and what he heard were two different things. I was talking about middle school, and he took it as a life lesson, and a negative one at that.

 I realize I have to be very careful with the words I choose with my students. And more than that, I need to make sure that we are on the same page. I will make sure that my students understand the true meaning of what I am saying to them, and don't take my words the wrong way. It's like that game of telephone where the message gets misconstrued along the way. I don't want that in my classroom, I want a clear and open line, where they hear what I say, and understand what I mean.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My Letter to President Obama! October 17, 2012!:Write the President!

 “One thing I never want to see happen is schools that are just teaching the test because then you’re not learning about the world, you’re not learning about different cultures, you’re not learning about science, you’re not learning about math,” the president said. “All you’re learning about is how to fill out a little bubble on an exam and little tricks that you need to do in order to take a test and that’s not going to make education interesting.”

Your words Mr.President, your words. I wrote your quote in a blog post in May 2011. Yet, nothing has changed. As a matter of fact, I believe it is worse!

Last year, my students took the standardized test four times, four times! The saddest part of all that testing? The fourth time did not count if they scored lower than they did the third time.  Imagine your children sitting down four times a year to take standardized tests in Reading and Math? And let's not forget Science and Social Studies. Next year, they are adding Writing. Each test is composed of approximately 50 questions. And the best part? They get to see if they passed or failed with the click of a key.

Mr.President, what do you think happens to instruction when students are being tested? It comes to a complete halt. Days are wasted, instruction is not given or received, we are in testing mode. What do you think teachers do who are worried about their evaluations being tied to their student's test scores? They "teach to the test." And if I read your quote correctly, you are vehemently against the very notion!

I have taught for 28 years, and I long for the days when the students could enjoy learning. When recess, music,art, and gym were not taken away so that students could stay cooped up in their rooms learning how to "beat" these tests.  When I was not questioned about the "extras" I do in my room because it's doesn't relate to a test-taking skill.

I feel disheartened when I read about testing companies making billions of dollars, billions! Meanwhile thousands of teachers come out-of-pocket or search for grants to purchase things for their classroom. I thought we were here for the kids. I thought they were what was important. I thought they mattered.

Don't make your words, just words. Make them mean something!

 Let's get rid of standardized testing! Allow teachers to make decisions! I want to teach Mr.President, not test! What are you going to do about it?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Morning Meeting Moments Create Critical Thinkers!

I use two sites that promote critical thinking: BrainPop and Wonderopolis

Every morning we begin our day with Morning Meeting. I have really come to enjoy Morning Meeting, it gives me a chance to bond with my students.
This year, I've added two elements, Brainpop and Wonderopolis. Their widgets are embedded on our class web page.
After the greeting and sharing of the message, we begin with the BrainPop Joke of the Day. When we first started, my students would call out literal answers, they weren't really thinking. Now, they take their time and think about possible related answers. 

In the beginning they couldn't figure out the joke, even when I showed them the answer.  But now when they're stuck, and I show the answer, I hear a collective "Ohhhhhh", and then a student volunteers to explain the joke to those that didn't "get it."  After that, I always hear, "Can we see another joke?" 

Alas, we have a limited amount of time, so we have to move on. After sharing, and a quick activity, we view the Wonder of the Day. They look forward to the videos, and it always leads to animated conversation. The videos make them think. They do what they're supposed to, make them wonder.

Our goal is to get our students to think. I appreciate the fact that Brainpop and Wonderopolis make it quick, easy, and fun!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Ain't Too Proud to Beg? Parent/Teacher Communication!

I attend the same church as one of  my students' parents. I know her mom very well.  After service she made, I guess what she thought was a joke, and said, "I have never had a teacher email the parents as much as you do! I asked my mom if you have a life?"
I didn't think it was funny.

I told her that I have a life, it doesn't take me that long to send an email, and that I had only sent three emails that month. I guess I answered a bit tersely because she hastened to let me know how much she appreciated the fact that I kept in touch with my parents.

On the other hand, at Open House a parent applauded the fact that I used technology to keep in touch with the parents. (email, webpage, Remind101, Edmodo...) She welcomed the choice to be involved in her child's life, and was so thankful that I took the time to give her that option. I had a number of parents last year who felt the same way.

However, I was disappointed by the response to my latest "updates" email. I didn't get any more parents to join  Remind101, and only two of my parents read and commented on their child's blog. When I look at the names of the 8 parents who have joined Remind101, or the ones that commented on their child's blog, I am not surprised. And no, their kids are not all super bright, some are struggling. But their parents are involved and want to stay in touch.  I hope that  there will be more responses, and my email is not lost, forgotten, or deleted.

How do I get more parents involved? I think I am doing all the right things. I email them, have a class website, the parent code is available on Edmodo, I make positive phone calls, and have enabled Remind101, what else can I do? Is there anything else I can do?
Or do I need to get a life? :)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Top 5 Popular Posts from September 2012!

Here are the Top 5 posts from September all in one place! Enjoy!

Standardized Testing Stole Our Day!

I planned in advance and completely forgot that we were having the standardized Math test today! Bummer!
Wonderful plans put on hold....

This is what my students and I lost today because Standardized testing took a day from us...

#Why I Don't Use Technology: Anti-Tech Teachers Lament Has No Standing!

The conversation went something like this:
Teacher: Do you know he suggested using Tagxedo at Reading Night?
Me: What a wonderful idea!
Teacher: I don't see why they want to use technology. (said with disdain)
Me: Why not? The kids and parents would have a good time.
Teacher: What if it doesn't work? What if it doesn't print? Then what are we supposed to do?
Me: What do you mean doesn't work? It's really easy to use.
And the conversation continued...

Matt Damon's Speech to Teachers at SOS Rally

 I  flew overnight from Vancouver to be with you today. I landed in New York a few hours ago and caught a flight down here because I needed to tell you all in person that I think you’re awesome.

 I was raised by a teacher. My mother is a professor of early childhood education. And from the time I went to kindergarten through my senior year in high school, I went to public schools. I wouldn’t trade that education and experience for anything.

In Defense of the Teachers Union: My Union is OK With Me!
She said I caused her daughter to have an asthma attack. She went to the principal and her child's teacher, told them I was "uppity", and that she was going to cause problems for me. She walked into my classroom and started yelling, and I had to have her removed.This occurred about 2005.

Global Learning: Helping to Prevent "The Ugly American" Stereotype!

"I have a nosy wife".

My husband and I were sitting in the Windjammer Cafe on the Royal Carribean's Explorer of the Seas.
And I was doing what I usually do when I am around a large number of people. In between conversing with my hubby, I listen to conversations taking place around me.