Writing my way through the school year!

Archive for March, 2012

Being a Teacher-Parent : What Should We Expect From Our Own Children?

“Hi, my name is Lisa, and I am a teacher-parent”.  Sigh. I remember when I started teaching in 1984, my principal had a son that was in Special Ed. I recall all too well my reaction,

“How could her son be in Special Ed, she is a principal of the gifted program?” I, (in my naivety),was quick to judge this woman, who had probably done all she could to help her child. I assumed that because she was an educator, that her children should be, not just smart, but supersmart! Able to leap academic standards in a single bound because Mom was a TEACHER! How many times, before I had my own kids, did I judge teacher-parent kids (Pssstt…did you know her Mom’s a teacher?)

Fast forward, and  children of my own, and my view has changed drastically! I have come to realize that being a teacher-parent doesn’t make your child different from anyone else’s. An educator’s child can suffer the same pitfalls as everyone else’s. There is no magic teacher dust that you sprinkle on them at birth that makes them immune to what life has to offer.

My youngest has been struggling since he was in preschool. He wasn’t the best behaved child. He’s wasn’t the “disrespectful, foul-mouthed, fighting child”, he was the “can’t keep his butt in the seat, trying to make people laugh” kind of child. The year I had him in the same school where I was a new teacher, another teacher saw him walking with me and said, “That’s YOUR child?” He was only in the first grade. I have to admit, I was embarrassed, even more so because I was a teacher. I expect so much from other people’s children, and mine was not behaving, what was wrong with me? I was a teacher, damn it!

Every year was a struggle with him. I never made excuses or tried to have him wiggle out of consequences. Every year, when his teachers found out I was a teacher, he would hear, “And your mother’s a teacher?”
I would sit him down and say the same thing, “M, I’m a teacher, this is what I expect from my students. This is what I need from you when you go to school. Do you know how embarrassing it is for me to be a teacher and you behave this way?” I don’t think it mattered to him as much as it mattered to me. I was the only one embarrassed when I sat down at parent-teacher conferences and felt I was being judged.

He’s a teenager now, and is no longer that child. I stopped getting phone calls and emails a long time ago. But he’s not where I want him to be academically. I guess, I don’t believe he is where I think a teacher’s child should be. I find myself thinking back and wondering if I spent enough time with him? Did I spend more time worrying about other people’s children then my own?  Did I place an unfair burden on him being the child of an educator, wanting more?  What strategy could I have used that would have produced a different effect?

My husband assures me that I am a great parent, and that I did all that could be done for him, teacher or not. I wish I could believe him. After all, I’m a teacher, shouldn’t I expect more?

Sir Ken Robinson: Do Schools Kill Creativity?

The story of the little girl who became a dancer because ADHD had not been “invented” really touched me. Too many of our children are labeled and medicated!

“Ouch, My Brain Hurts!” Rigor in the Classroom!

I watched this video, and cracked up! I was trying to find articles about rigor and bumped into this video. It’s a bit long in making its point, but I get it. This poor teacher is being hounded by her principal, to “perform” , so that her students can learn the parts of speech.

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Pinerly, a New Way to Manage Your Pinterest Account!

Standardized Testing: The Monster that Ate American Education

The World “Because of” Standardized Testing!(A Little Teacher Humor!:)

I hate standardized testing.  I hate what standardized testing has done to teaching. SMH 😦      This is what it has driven me to!

  

1.  A guy goes in for a job as a bubble filler.

He lets the boss know how he meets the requirements for the job.

“I can fill in bubbles really well. ”

” I’ve been taking standardized tests since I was in kindergarten.”

“I make sure the circle is filled in, no white showing, and no stray marks.”

The boss says, “You sound like just the person we need!”

The guy reaches over to shake the bosses’ hand, “I think this is going to work out just great!”

The boss pulls his hand back, “Did you say think?” “I’m sorry, we can’t use you.”

2.  Bunch of guys sitting in an office.

“We have a huge order of scantron forms that need filling in!”

“OMG, how are we going to fill that order?!”

They put their heads together.

A woman shouts, “I got it!”, and picks up the phone.

Ring! Ring!

The person answers on the other side, “Hello, Dumbdown Elementary, how can I help you?”

3.  A principal walks into a classroom unannounced.

The students quickly try to stuff their lined paper in their desks.

He looks at the teacher. “What’s going on here Ms.Cannolongerteach?”

She stammers, “The kids wanted to see what it was like to use lined paper, they were tired of using grid paper or scantron forms.”

Kid starts crying. “Ms.Cannolongerteach was just giving us a break, Mr.Bringthescoresup! She didn’t mean any harm!”

“I’m sorry kids, but Ms. Cannolongerteach knew the rules. Pack your stuff and come with me Ms.Cannolongerteach.”

4.The students in the new teacher’s class, Mr.Icannolongerbecreative’s ,eagerly turn on their laptops.

“Okay everyone, we are going to create a video about WWII. Please go to the Photopeach site.”

As students click on the site, bells begin to sound on each laptop.

“Warning! Warning!” Creative learning taking place! Creative Learning taking place!”

School security bursts into the room.

Mr.Icannolongerbecreative stands pale and shaken.

“What’s going on?”, he shouts.

They put handcuffs on and drag him out.

“These laptops are for test-taking skills only!”, they yell vehemently.

“I didn’t know!”, he yells as they drag him down the hall, “I didn’t know!”

Why Can’t We Hold Parents Accountable Any More?

I’ve noticed that whenever someone starts talking about  “the parents”, people want to shut them down. The immediate reaction is a harsh backlash, usually accusing the author of parent bashing.  “The parents” are off-limits. But, I’m going to go there.:)

I believe society started a trend from which there is no escape, and no turning back.  Parents were allowed to relinquish the reins of raising their children. They relinquished them,  handed them over to the schools, to the teachers. They stepped back, and said, “You take care of them!”  You make sure my child eats, you make sure my child can read, you make sure my child gets enough exercise, you make sure my child doesn’t bully anyone.”  The list is endless! How did this happen?

They are parents, and that is a job that should be taken seriously.  My mother raised 5 children, the key word being “raised”.  She took responsibility for us, she did not make excuses. She, (my Dad helped a little), made sure we were clean, completed our homework, ate dinner, played outside, she did this.  We were all reading before the first day of school. It seems to me that when you know that someone else is going to feed your child, clothe them, teach them, make sure their work is done, where is the incentive for you to do it?

I understand that parenting is difficult, but you can’t just stop once they enter school.  We need to hold parents responsible for providing the things their children need to be successful in school. If a child can come to school with the latest sneakers and/or latest video game console, why can’t they bring in a pencil, a notebook, the bare essentials for a classroom? If there is no Internet access at home, why can’t the parent take their child to the Public library, it’s free! Do you know how many parents look at me as if I have two heads when I suggest this?

We have to stop saying, “Oh, you know they’re not going to do it, so we (teachers) might as well.” That is not acceptable.

Do I mean let a child in your school go hungry, freeze, or not provide notebooks because their parent lost their job, or is on drugs, or any other catastrophe that can’t be controlled? No, I’m not talking about that parent.

I am talking about the ones who are perfectly capable of providing what their child needs, but refuse.  The parent who will not attend conferences because they are “tired”,  but will call you in a heartbeat to find out why their child didn’t go out for Recess today.

The parent who signs tests and notes, as they push their kid out of the car in the morning, and then call you to ask how their child is doing.  The parent who asks for extra work for their child, a day or two after the phone call informing them that their child is not doing any work in class or at home.

The parent who won’t pick up a book to read to their child at home, yet complains to the teacher about the child’s inability to read. (A parent told a friend of mine, “That’s what you’re here for!”) The parent who takes their kid to Disney World while school is in session because it is cheaper, and then asks you to provide a week’s worth of work!

I have had many wonderful, supportive parents, who will do whatever they need to for their child, make the sacrifices that are required. But, I have also had the other ones. And I feel if they are going to hold us accountable, then our parents should be held accountable as well! Remember the triangle? Three legs,the child, the parents, and the school.  Unfortunately, every time a parent lets go, that triangle collapses! How can we get our parents to pick up that leg?

Prepare Your Students for College – Encourage Them to Learn a Foreign Language(Guest Post)

Susan Taylor is a freelance writer who loves travel, foreign languages, and curling up with a good book.

No matter what grade you teach, it’s never too early to start preparing your students for college. Colleges want the best and brightest, which doesn’t always translate to just the highest IQ. They want students with full backgrounds in diverse activities, who will bring some honor and stature to their school. Aside from joining clubs, doing volunteer work, and yes, getting good grades, students of all ages can benefit from learning a second language in preparation for the college world and beyond.

High school students often take a foreign language as part of their curriculum. It’s a popular elective, and some schools even require students to take a language like Spanish, depending on where the school is located. If students really want to take advantage of how language skills can help them get into college, they may want to supplement their classes with outside courses, and learn Spanish—or another language—on their own, which you may want to encourage as their teacher. Here’s why.

Improved SAT Scores

You may have never thought that learning another language could help your students with their SATs. After all, the entire test is English and Math, so how is knowing Spanish, French, or any other language going to help them? Actually, learning another language can help them to understand English structure and vocabulary better. This is especially true of Latin-based languages that share many cognates (words that sound alike in more than one language) with English.

In addition, because most students probably grew up speaking just English, much of the grammar and structure is second nature to them. Having to think about how a second language is structured causes them to be more conscious of English structure and grammar, thereby understanding it more thoroughly and not taking it for granted. A higher SAT score increases their chances of being accepted to more discriminating colleges.

Unique Study Opportunities

Speaking a second language opens up an entire world of study opportunities to students later on in their academic careers. Student exchange programs take place throughout the calendar year, not just the school year, and are organized by several independent organizations not affiliated with high schools. Knowing a second language can help students secure a position in an exchange program, which could be a very valuable and educational experience for them.

Studying abroad is about much more than reading or writing in a foreign language. Students will have the chance to interact with people of other cultures, learn their traditions and customs, and expand their understanding of the world. They’ll get the chance to travel, and see sights they otherwise might never be able to experience. Being able to speak the language of the country is where their knowledge will only enrich those experiences. And then when it comes time to apply for and interview with colleges, their time overseas could help to demonstrate a willingness to learn new things, and show that they are open to new experiences and challenges. This can make them good candidates for special programs in college as well, and will help them stand out as much more attractive prospects.

Advancement in Fields of Study

Depending on their major, a foreign language can propel students further toward their career goals. Are any of them hoping to become doctors some day? Knowing a Latin-based language such as French, Italian, or Spanish can help them learn the Latin medical terminology more quickly. Many medical terms are also rooted in Greek, so that language could help them in that endeavor as well.

If your students end up choosing a major like foreign relations, global economics, or even biology, second language skills can come in handy. They may wish to participate in a field study group with biologists collecting specimens in the South American rain forest. Spanish or Portuguese would help them get around during their stay, and communicating with local team members would be much easier. Being able to communicate with them will allow your students to share information, and build relationships that may last throughout their careers.

These are just a few examples of how learning a foreign language can help your students get into a good college, and enrich their lives in many ways. Language skills are something they can carry with them always, and helping them learn a new language may give them an advantage not only in college, but in the job market once they graduate.

Susan Taylor is a freelance writer who loves travel, foreign languages, and curling up with a good book.

You Can Catch More Flies with Honey! Lesson Learned!

We sat in the gymtorium watching the presentation about the Negro Baseball League, and he wouldn’t stop.  He sat a few feet away from me and he wouldn’t stop talking, wouldn’t stop leaning on other people, and he wouldn’t stop putting his hands on others.  His teacher was absent, and the substitute, well, I guess he felt as long as he was there…

The student teacher pointed him out to me, and my mind raced to a time when I had tried to discipline this little boy in the hallway. He said something to me that almost made me forget who and where I was.  So, instead of disciplining him, I told her, “I’m not saying anything to him. He  said something to me a couple of months ago when I tried to correct him in the hallway.” I  turned away, determined to ignore his behavior, but I couldn’t.

I tried glaring at him, putting my hands over my lips, pointing, even gave him “the look.”  Nothing worked. All I got for my trouble was hands raised, and “What? What?” Or he would turn to his friend and say, “What is she looking at me for?”  Or, he would glare back. During the course of the presentation, he raised his hand and asked me if he could go to the restroom.  I knew this was my chance.

I motioned him toward me, and he came, reluctantly. I guess he was preparing himself for the scolding he was going to receive. But I surprised him, instead of scolding him,  I said in a light tone, “Now you want something from me. I wanted you to sit quietly during the presentation.” He smiled and nodded. I said, “When you lean on people and touch them, it makes them uncomfortable, understand?” He smiled and nodded. Then he was off to the bathroom. When he returned, he sat down, and started talking. But this time, when I put my finger over my lips, he smiled, and stopped talking.

Now when I pass him in the hallway, he says hello. Nothing major, but a huge deal for this kid.

And I know no matter how much honey you put on that spoon, there are the kids who will curse you out, disrespect you, and not change one iota.  But, sometimes, the honey works, sometimes you catch more flies.:)

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