Writing my way through the school year!

Posts tagged ‘Student’

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.READ MORE…

Teacher Appreciation:From the Mouths of Babes!

Some of my students wrote  a letter for the state department’s Teacher Appreciation Day contest. After reading the letters, it gave me some insight as to what my students appreciate about me. I chose to use the letters as an informal evaluation  tool to see what I am doing right,(or wrong). I found some of the responses quite amusing.:)

  • I bustle (Vocabulary word) around on Twitter looking for people to Skype with.
  • I am a cool teacher, even with my corny jokes.
  • Even if one of the students make me angry, I don’t show my bad emotions out loud.
  • I am the best motivator ever!
  • I am nice, because if I won the Mega Millions, I would give every student a million dollars. (I did promise that-LOL)
  • I always have a smile when I walk in, and it means to have a great day.
  • If someone gets an answer wrong, I don’t pout.
  • When they have a question, I always have an answer. (Hmmm…I think it just seems that way.:)
  • I’m overprotective. (Yeah, those are MY babies, don’t mess with them!)
  • I am very fun.
  • I help with 5th grade drama. (This particular student added, “I’m not a part of it, but she always has great solutions.”)
  • I care for them all the time.
  • I am super cool. 🙂 
  • My effort shows to them.
  • I make hard things easy, and easy things awesome!
  • I don’t keep them outside when it drizzles, because I don’t want them to get sick. (Also, because I don’t want to get my hair wet!)
  • I have a lot of cool websites.
  • I taught them to never give up on themselves and never be scared to ask a question.
  • I always repeat myself so that they can understand. (I thought it was because they weren’t listening to me. 🙂 
  • I have “rocking” teacher skills! Woo hoo! (I added the “Woo,hoo”part)
  • I love all my students. (I really do)
  • And most of all, I take my job seriously.

Let Students Own, Not Rent! Making it “Our Classroom”

The other day, I don’t remember why, we moved our desks. Instead of 6 groups of four, we ended up in two groups of 12. At some point during the day, my students asked me to leave the tables in two groups of 12. I took their request lightly, and began to dismiss it. But they pleaded, because they really enjoyed the new  layout of the room.  They began to support their request with strong reasons, and I relented. The desks stayed where they were, and have been like that for the last couple of days.

It’s their room too. I came to that realization that it  can’t always be my way, I had to let them own their classroom. When I speak to my students, I make sure that  I say “our classroom”, but I believe my words speak louder than my actions. I am certainly not a dictator, but I know now that I could loosen the reins a little more.

We have to allow our students the chance to make decisions.  As difficult as it may be in this time of standardized testing. We have to allow them the chance to be part of the decision-making process. As the school year progresses, I am going to make a conscious effort to truly make it “our classroom.”Letting them decide the layout of the room was a big step for me, but I am loving it. They were  right, there is more space.:)

“Humiliation is Not a Classroom Management Technique!”

My youngest son is no angel, not in any way, shape, or form. He had been getting in  “trouble” since preschool. I would go to pick him up and he would wave, and grin, at me from the timeout area. He didn’t know any better, he was just one of those kids that was always up and about. Back then, if you were that kid, you ended up in timeout.

When he was in the second grade, I had a conference with his teacher. She couldn’t wait for me to sit down as she proclaimed, “He needs to be on medication! You need to put him on medication!” (We won’t go into the fact that legally a teacher cannot tell a parent to put their child on medication.) She then proceeded to show me what she did because he could not ” behave.” She took his chair, put it facing the blackboard in the front of the room, and then if that wasn’t enough, she rolled the hanging chart behind him “so he wouldn’t distract the other kids.” I saw red! What a humiliating experience for my child! She seemed quite pleased with herself. Needless to say, I contacted the principal immediately and had my child removed from her class.He was placed in a classroom where the teachers practiced strategies that allowed them to deal with kids like my son.

Last Sunday, I was talking to a parent who has a son in one of the new charter schools in my state. She informed me that her son had to wear the “yellow shirt.” The yellow shirt states, “Do not talk to me, I am in isolation.” My mouth fell open, and I told her, “Get your child out of that school immediately. She responded, “Oh, it’s ok, the shirt is normal.”

Normal? What’s normal about having anyone’s child walk around with a shirt saying “Don’t talk to me”? Using Color coded student ID’s according to your test scores?  Showing the class a student’s work and mocking them  in front of the class? What’s normal about a teacher humiliating a child in the hope that they will behave better? How could this possibly work?  The natural reaction to humiliation is to either shut down, or to become aggressive. The child no longer trusts the teacher and it has created an intolerable situation in the classroom for the student and/or the teacher. It can also lead to bullying. If the teacher is allowed to bully a student, why shouldn’t the other students?

I know they “take us there” sometimes. I was one of those teachers who had to stop using sarcasm as a classroom management technique, especially when I had a difficult group of kids. But now, I always think of how I would feel in that situation.  I think about how my sons would feel.  You know the adage, “Treat others the way you want to be treated!”  Now that’s a good classroom management technique!

“What the #@*%? Did You Just Hit Me?” When Students Hit Teachers!

And no, those four marks represent the word “H-E- Two sticks”, not the other word. Although I have to admit, I  don’t know what word that teacher was thinking at that moment it happened. She was slapped. Slapped hard.  By a first grader. Seriously?

I remember 7th grade, George Gershwin JHS in East New York, Brooklyn, Felicia hit our teacher. No, I can’t remember the teacher’s name, but I remember hers.  We were shocked, but suffice to say, what followed next, shocked us even more. The teacher hit her back! It turned into an all-out, hair-pulling brawl! All the students were screaming, the librarian was yelling for help, it was total and complete chaos!

I had a student in another class elbow me, hard, when we were on a class trip. I allowed my class to get on the ferry first, and he didn’t appreciate that. (The teacher and I had decided to alternate) I couldn’t do what I wanted to do to him, so I told my principal when we returned. My principal at the time, arranged a meeting with the boy and his parent. He was made to apologize, and was suspended for two days.

What do you do when a student hits you? Even more importantly, what can you do? What are your options?  I know hitting a student back is not a viable solution. (Even though laymen I have shared this story with beg to differ). BYOG (Bring Your Own Gun) is such a scary option, you would think I made it up.

What message is being conveyed to the other students?  Does it affect the way the students view you in the classroom?  I guess it would depend on the how the teacher and administration handle the situation.

My friend’s husband told her if a student hits her again, she should go straight to the principal’s office and put in for medical leave.  But another friend pooh-poohed that solution. She said it would leave the other students, the ones that don’t hit, without a teacher, and I agree.

Thank goodness this was a first grader, but I know there are situations where older students hit their teachers. I’m sure the consequences are more serious, and the damage  done to the teacher is more serious than a red mark on the cheek. How many teachers return to work after being hit by a student?

In a society where violence is depicted on television and video games as fun and games, how hard is it to get our students to understand, life is not a video game. When you hit someone in “real life”, it hurts!

And the bigger question is, what can be done to protect teachers from being the recipient of this behavior?

“A Day at the Beach!”

 
On Wednesday I went to the beach with two teacher friends. What a beautiful day! We didn’t go in the water, we just lay in our chairs and talked, and talked, and talked. We talked about politics, entertainment, gossip, and of course, education. (What else would you expect from a 5th grade  teacher, an ESL teacher, and a librarian?) We would pause and  enjoy the view, but not for long.  I would peek at my Iphone, my friends would read their  paper,and every time something caught our eye, the conversation would start anew. Oh, we enjoyed the day and each other’s company!

However, a group of teenagers across from us caught our eye at different moments during our stay.  They never talked to each other, did not interact with each other, all they did was text.  They ventured into the water at one point, but when they came back, I am not exaggerating, they simultaneously picked up their phones, lay down, and began texting again.  No, my friends and I weren’t stalking them, we were just baffled by their behavior. Didn’t they  come out to the beach to enjoy each other’s company?  If they were with each other, who were they texting? Why didn’t they talk to each other?

It made me think about the number of students, in recent years, who do not know how to hold a conversation.  They all have phones(Yes, my 5th  graders), and they all have texting available on their phones. I understand that they are 21st century children, but they still need to know how to communicate with others.  This is why I make sure my students talk to each other, collaborate, and share ideas. Not just on the computer, but face to face. This is why I have “Lunch with the teacher” days, so that we can  talk to each other.  This is why I accepted Morning Meeting when it was thrust upon me, because I realized it gave my kids a chance to talk to each other.

Every year, I ask my students if they eat meals at the kitchen table, most of them don’t.  I have a day I call, “Eat at the table with Your Family Day.”  I enjoy the feedback I get from students who actually follow through on it.  Too many  of them eat in their rooms or the family room, television on, phone beside them, no shared conversation.  No one talks to them at  home,their parents, tired from working all day,  leave them to their own devices. It happens. (I have to admit, there have been days where my son had to force me to eat at the table, and no phones are allowed!)

I know it’s not my job to make families talk to each other,  but conversation leads to learning, collaborating, sharing ideas, and even debate.

 As we were leaving, a guy a couple of yards away from us laughed and said, “You ladies made my day, in a good way!”  We laughed, slightly embarrassed that our conversation had been overheard, but happy that we made him feel good.  I felt  sorry for those kids, I realize they might not have  cared.  But I thought, how much more fun would they have had, if they actually talked to each other?

Will (Or Can) Computers Replace Teachers?

As I listened to my favorite radio station this morning, the hosts made reference to an article,  “Will teachers be replaced by computers?”  The hosts made jokes, but I took this question seriously. 

“As long as schools measure performance simply by rote memorization on multiple-choice tests, no teacher can compete with instant access to the world’s information. Unless schools change, more and more teachers will find themselves replaced by computers.”

But that’s the point, we should not measure performance based on rote memorization.  As a country, we are always pushing critical thinking.  In the classroom, we are all given copies of Bloom’s Taxonomy, and told to encourage higher level thinking.  In reality though, we know what we are asked to do, get our students to pass a test at the end of the school year.  The author of this article is correct, a computer can do this.

But, it raises a number of questions for me. 

 More than 50% of my students do not have access to the Internet.  They might have computers in their homes, but Internet access is not a necessity for most of them, not when the bills have to be paid. For the life of me, I can not see how computerized instruction can meet the needs of all students.  Will different programs be developed for each student?   And let’s say each student does have Internet access, it’s hard enough to get some students to work in the classroom under your nose.  What is their motivation at home?  At home, with food, friends, music, and the latest tech toys, who do you think will win that battle in most homes, school or fun? 

What about social issues?  Think about the child who comes to school and receives the only two meals of the day they will get. The child who has someone notice that they are being abused.  The child who has no friends outside of school, or lives in a home where the television is his/her only friend. Presently, our students are lacking in every day social skills due to texting, Facebook, Twitter, and the like. If you remove human interaction, how will they be able to function when they enter the work force or college?  I struggle to get parental involvement with students I see every day, how would I hold parents accountable? Sometimes, a child needs a hug, or a smile just to make it through the day, and not one they get through a monitor.

I am sick of hearing “We’re all about the kids.” Everything we do is “for the kids.”  It’s evident that this idea has nothing to do with our kids, it’s about money, and it always will be.

“Though teachers like Chris Kirchner of Coral Reef Senior High School in Miami have called Florida’s e-learning labs “nearly criminal” for removing the human component from instruction, schools teetering on bankruptcy will reasonably look for cheaper solutions to meet federal funding standards. Simply, interactive websites and textbooks can teach fractions and the stages of cell reproduction every bit as well as a lecturer.”

As A Teacher, Isn’t It Wonderful When?…

students worry whether you’ll still come in, after you take off  from work in the morning?

the way they  greet you excitedly when you finally arrive?

students come back and visit, or send an email saying, “Thank you!”?

they don’t pretend they don’t see you at the mall?

tell you that you’re their  favorite teacher?

bring you cake from their birthday party?

say “We missed you”, and mean it, when you’ve been out?

make a card, that they all sign,  for your sick __________?( In my case my Dad.)

try to teach you how to do the dougie at the school dance? ( I still can’t do it)

draw you pictures? (Make sure you hang them where they can see it)

give you a moment to cry when you get sad news?

let you know that  your hair is messed up after a windy Recess?

give you a hug, just because? (Elementary kids)

they catch you dancing to “Unwritten”, and laugh with you, not at you!?

As a teacher, isn’t it wonderful to be able to have students who can brighten your day, change your outlook, and make you smile?

Feeling Burned Out? Read This and Be Rejuvenated!:)

This morning I walked into my classroom feeling exhausted. Done!  After days of standardized testing, my mind was fried!  At this point of the year, (forgetting that I still have a mortgage), I wonder if I can keep doing this.  I have taught for 26 years and everything’s changed, the parents, kids, my workload, the list is endless.

But then I get a reminder of why I teach. This is my third one this year, so it must be a sign.:) Don’t give up! It was in my Inbox this morning.: 

This is Kara S.,

You taught both me, and my brother collin way back in 2005/2003

Im on a mission to hunt down all the teacher in my life that have made a big impact on me

Im so glad i found you, and thank you so much for teaching me!

there are certain teachers in life that are hard to forget, and id like to let you know that your job is important.

Ill be going to college next year and its all because of the wonderful people who helped me get here

Thanks for every thing!:D

~kara

I’ll be back next year.

Open Letter to Pres. Obama: This is What Standardized Testing “Looks” Like!

Dear President Obama,

Today was the first day of Round 3 of standardized testing in the state of Delaware. The test is administered online, and the students get their scores immediately. It covers everything we learned in the 5th grade, even though we have not finished the school year.

Let me begin with my morning. I attended a union meeting where I am told the state of Delaware has decided that they will decide whether I am a good teacher according to how well my students do on this test! It’s bad enough, that my school is judged by test scores, but now my ability to teach is questioned because of test scores? Does this seem as ridiculous to you as it does to me? Does anyone realize how many other factors control how our children perform in school?

I have prepared my students to the best of my ability for this test. As much as I despise it, I do not want them to fail. Aren’t we supposed to be creating critical thinkers? How can I do that, when instead of doing projects, or collaborating with our pen pals, we are filling in bubbles!!!!

The test. They worked hard, they really did, and all of them showed growth. In fact, most of them passed, except one. Have you ever been in a room full of children taking a standardized test? Have you ever watched student’s knees and hands shake as they go to press the “Submit Test” button, and wait anxiously for their scores? And no, it’s not because of horror stories I have told them, it’s the pressure of it all. The release of air when they have met their goal is audible. Except if they “fail.” He cried. This student that worked so hard, cried. I held back tears and congratulated him for working so hard and for showing growth, and then sent him to the bathroom to collect himself. He cried, no test should make a child cry!

At the end of the day, I told all of them to clap for themselves for working so diligently, he didn’t clap. I pointed at him, my voice cracked, and I said, “You worked so hard, you showed improvement, you get to clap!” Imagine this, we still have two more days of testing.

This is not right, Mr. President, you said so yourself : “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.”

I am not against assessments or evaluations, but there has to be a better way. Don’t you agree?

A Heartbroken, Stressed-out, Teacher

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