Teacher ABCs

A is for the abundance of questions and yearning

B is for both inward and outward beauty

C is for creative learning

D is for doing it over ’til it’s right

E is for the effort you pour into preparing each night

F is for watching how far we can go

G is for seeing us blossom and grow

H is for reaching for that star so high

I is for imagination, for the courage to try

J is for joy in touching a child’s life in a meaningful way

K is for kindness you bring children each day

L is for the love of teaching we see

M is for the “me” you’re helping me to be

N is for never being too busy to pray

O is for overcoming our desire to stray

P is for positives you bring to each

Q is for the quintessential way you teach

R is for your willingness to give us a reason

S is for teaching us to appreciate each season

T is for touching those that sit before you

U is for understanding our fear of all that is so new

V is for the vitality you show each day

W is for every wonderment you bring our way

X is for the extra special teacher we see

Y is for our sense of yearning to be, and

Z is for the big “yahoo” sent from your very own “zoo”!

~Author Unknown



“Where are the heroes of today?” a radio talk show host thundered. He blames society’s shortcomings on public education, of all things! I think too many people are looking for heroes in all the wrong places. Movie stars and rock musicians, athletes and models aren’t heroes, they’re celebrities.

Heroes abound in public schools, a fact that doesn’t make the news. There is no precedent for the level of violence, drugs, broken homes, child abuse, and crime in today’s America. Public education certainly didn’t create these problems but deals with them every single day.

You want heroes?

Consider Dave Sanders, the school teacher shot to death while trying to shield his students from two Neo-Nazi youth on a bombing and shooting rampage at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Sanders gave his life, along with 12 students, and there were also other less heralded heroes who survived the Colorado blood bath.

You want heroes?

Jane Smith, a Fayetteville, NC, teacher, was moved by the plight of one of her students, a boy dying for want of a kidney transplant. So this pretty white woman told the family of this handsome 14-year old black boy that she would give him one of her kidneys. And she did. When they subsequently appeared together hugging on the Today Show, Katie Couric was near tears.

You want heroes?

Doris Dillon dreamed all her life of being a teacher. She not only made it, she was one of those wondrous teachers who could bring the best out of every single child. One of her fellow teachers in San Jose, Calif., said “she could teach a rock to read.” Suddenly she was stricken with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, which is always fatal, usually within five years. She asked to stay on the job-and did. When her voice was affected she communicated by computer. Did she go home? She is running two elementary school libraries. When the disease was diagnosed, she wrote the staff and all the families that she had one last lesson to teach– that dying is part of living. Her colleagues named her Teacher of the Year.

You want heroes?

Bob House, a teacher in Georgia, tried out for Who Wants to be a Millionaire. After he won the million dollars, a network film crew wanted to follow up to see how it had impacted his life. New cars? Big new house? Instead, they found both Bob House and his wife still teaching. They explained that it was what they had always wanted to do with their lives and that would not change. The community was both stunned and gratified.

You want heroes?

Last year the average public school teacher spent $468 of their own money for student necessities –work books, pencils– supplies kids had to have but could not afford. That’s a lot of money from the pockets of the most poorly paid teachers in the industrial world. Public schools don’t teach values? The critics are dead wrong. Public education provides more Sunday school teachers than any other profession. The average teacher works more hours in nine months than the average 40-hour employee does in a year.

You want heroes?

For millions of kids, the hug they get from a teacher is the only hug they will get that day because the nation is living through the worst parenting in history. Many have never been taken to church or synagogue in their lives. A Michigan principal moved me to tears with the story of her attempt to rescue a badly abused little boy who doted on a stuffed animal on her desk — one that said “I love you!” He said he’d never been told that at home.

This is a constant in today’s society-some two million unwanted, unloved, abused children attending public schools, the only institution that takes them all in.

You want heroes?

Visit a special education class and watch the miracle of personal interaction, a job so difficult that fellow teachers are awed by the dedication they witness. There is a sentence from an unnamed source which says, “We have been so anxious to give our children what we didn’t have that we have neglected to give them what we did have.” What is it that our kids really need? What do they really want? Math, science, history and social studies are important, but children need love, confidence, encouragement, someone to talk to, someone to listen, standards to live by. Teachers provide upright examples, the faith and assurance of responsible people.

~author unknown

Just some random miscellaneous teacher thoughts

* Our kindy kiddo who had brain surgery is back at school, I saw her for the first time today, she was smiling as always.  So happy to see her back and feeling good.

* had 5th graders asking me how ebola spreads so quickly, I directed them to the game Pandemic online to see how it happens, two of them came back today to tell me about it and then told me what they learned and how surprising it is that things spread so fast.

* indoor recess more than one day in a row is not good for anyone: students, teachers, parents, no one

* teaching kindergartners to use their own usernames and passwords to log-in to the computer is exhausting and yet rewarding as they are able to start doing it on their own and help each other out

* give kids the choice on what work to do and most of them still do the work that has the closest deadline first

* teaching second graders to type using the correct fingers takes constant monitoring, they’re already so used to using just pointer fingers it’s hard to break the habit, amazing how early the habit forms

* learning computer programming/code is like learning a foreign language: easier to learn the younger you are, seriously it’s just amazing how fast kindergartners can pick up the skill


First Day of School

Boy am I exhausted!  But it’s a good kind of exhausted.  First day of school and it went really well!  I love that with the exception of K and 4th every class has kids that I had last year so reviewing rules and emergency procedures takes no time at all.  Several of my classes actually got onto the computers today.

I had kindy first thing this morning, poor little ones so overwhelmed but only one ended up in tears.  I only had one of the four classes today so we’ll see how things go for the others.

I’m on 1st grade recess and lunch duty this year, well at least for now, it was so much fun to see all my kiddos again.  It never ceases to amaze me how much kiddos grow in just  few months over the summer.

Last year I almost never ate lunch in the lounge, this year the music teacher and I decided we’ll eat in the lounge at least one day a week, we went in today and ate with the rest of the specials team, traded stories, it was just fun.  I love my job!

I’m really excited too, this is going to be a great year.  Now to rest up for day 2 😉

A teacher’s plea to other teachers part 2

Please if there are set behavior expectations for everyone in the building to follow such as line and hallway behavior have your kids follow those behaviors.

If you have to refill the paper in the copier or printer, please don’t put in just enough for what you’re copying/printing.  Fill the tray!

Also if you’re using the copier and using colored paper or card stock, when you get done take out the leftover and put it back where you found it so the office staff doesn’t needlessly go looking for more of a certain color or order more when it is not necessary.

On that note, be kind to office staff, custodians, cafeteria workers, support staff in general.  Yes administrators are in charge of the building but it is the support staff that actually keeps it running, especially the secretaries.  A friend of mine told me when she went for a parent orientation at her daughter’s school the teachers leading the orientation told them to make extra copies of anything they send to the office because the office staff is incompetent.  UM what?  Never say that to parents even if you believe it.

Now on that note never say anything negative to parents or students about another staff member.  Yes people don’t always get along but complaining about other teachers to students is just irresponsible and disrespectful, something we don’t want our students to be.  If a student asks you directly for your opinion, and it happens, say you don’t know the teacher very well, say you don’t always see eye-to-eye as happens in life but you’re sure he or she is a competent teacher.  Side step if you have to, admit you don’t always get along maybe but don’t badmouth a fellow teacher or staff member.

If you have a problem with a staff member talk to them first before talking to administration.  I felt completely cornered my first year teaching (I was a traveling teacher) when two assistant principals called me in to talk to me about complaints made by another teacher who had never spoken to me.  They were small complaints and had she expressed them to me I would have made changes.  I felt disrespected when she didn’t come to me first.   If you are uncomfortable speaking to them try an e-mail or with another teacher.  Don’t confront them in a large group, I made this mistake, not purposely but I still felt really bad about it.  I disagreed with the rewards policy of another teacher in that her rewards were things like students wearing pajamas all day.  While I supported her right to give rewards I felt that those rewards should only be in her class and not all day as they had not necessarily earned a reward in my class.  I went about talking to her the wrong way and hurt her feelings as well as causing some unnecessary conflict.  I learned my lesson please learn from my mistake!

It’s that time of year

And so it begins again… the search for a classroom teaching position that is.  This will be the fourth year that I begin this process.  I am updating all of the various district online applications and keeping an eye on all posted positions but it’s tough.  The search lasts from now until school starts.  It can be very wearing.

I know that there are hundreds of applicants for each position posted so it’s not likely I will get a phone call.  I was fortunate to get two interviews for teaching positions last year.   I have also been incredibly fortunate to have gotten the classroom assistant positions I have had for the past three years.  There is slightly less stress in the job search as I know that I should be able to return to the job I currently hold next year and I work in a wonderful school, the teachers are all so supportive, everyone on the staff is treated as an equal, there is just such a great sense of community here.  However I would still like a classroom position.  So I have the resume updated, cover letters ready to be personalized to school or district, and request for new reference letters out.  I’ve already applied for a number of positions now it’s wait time.  I’m not good at wait time.  I’ll just have to concentrate on my job right now, making the lessons count all the way to the end of the year, my book study on Repair Kit for Grading, maybe pick a book to follow it, and just trying not to stress.

Parent Teacher conferences

So we had my son’s P/T conference last night and between that, the Leader in Me training I attended over the summer, and reading Repair Kit for Grading I began to think about all the P/T conferences I’ve led through the years and the different styles.

One on one  or parent(s)/guardians and teacher alone in a room – this style definitely has its pros and cons.  It’s nice to be able to talk with the parents and have their child’s desk right there to pull out workbooks and notebooks to reference as need be, though I’m not a fan of having the kids clean their desks just for conferences maybe that’s the parent in me talking as my child’s desk was spotless last night and knowing my child I know that’s not how it normally looks.  I want to see that.  I want parents to see what their child’s work area looks like on a day-to-day basis, I want them to know how often we work on keeping them clean.  Maybe an alternate strategy would be to snap a quick picture a few times and have a record.  Most of the time I find that students that are better organized tend to be get better grade, though there are exceptions.  With one on one in a classroom there is little chance of others overhearing your conference keeping it more private.  This however can backfire when you have a parent that becomes angry.  Also this style tends to lead to conferences running longer as parents don’t see anyone else waiting to come in and it can be hard to move them along sometimes. This is also a style that I think is often uncomfortable for new teachers who have never led conferences before.

Two or three on one or parent(s)/guardians and a few teachers in the room – When I began in my last district several of us were new to the school and this suggestion was made to make conferences a little easier.  It was nice to have backup of a veteran teacher in the district (I had taught only 3 yrs before that and the other teacher with us had only taught for one year) but there were times I almost felt like we were ganging up on parents.  It can be hard enough to tell a parent their child is not doing well, or as a parent to hear it.  It has to be tough on a parent to hear it from teacher after teacher in private conference but it seemed to me to be mean to have three teachers in the same room say the same thing over and over.  This conference also has potential to run long but with two or three teachers in a room you have a bit more backup when you say you need to move on and suggest scheduling another time to talk.

One on one in a large group setting – This may sound odd but for the last several years in my last position (small rural middle school) all of the middle school teachers had a table in the gym, there was enough separation that parents couldn’t hear what was happening at the next table but conferences moved faster, parents could see the line forming at the bleachers by the door.  We allowed double time for parents with more than one student and as specials teachers were in the gym with us I think they ended up seeing more parents than they did when it was one on one in the classrooms.  This also provided more backup if parents became angry or belligerent and often kept parents calmer.

Student-led conferences – This is by far my favorite conference style, though I’m not sure how well it would work with say kindergarten and first grade, I think second and third graders could do it and I know kids older than that can.  I was incredibly fortunate that my first year of teaching was in a school that chose to do student-led conferences.  Each students created a portfolio of work from every class.  They chose some examples of their work and after reviewing those chosen the teacher might add an example or two as well.  The student also completed a reflection sheet on their grades and effort for the quarter for each class.  I loved that this asked the student to take responsibility for their behavior.  A few of my students complained about having to come to conferences.  I asked them if their parents had ever come home from conferences and yelled at them or they’d gotten in trouble because of their grades, the answers came in yesses, lowered heads, sinking in chairs 🙂  I explained that this was a chance for them to say to their parents “I know I messed up, here’s how I’m going to fix it and here’s how you and/or the teacher can help me fix it.”  I overheard a mother and daughter talking when the daughter got to the question “How can my parents help me improve/maintain my grade?”  The daughter said her parents could check her homework, her mom replied that she thought Dad did, the daughter said “No Mom he doesn’t”, mom was a bit perplexed but answered, “OK well I can do that.”  When kids came back to school the following week several of them told me how much better it went, that they hadn’t gotten yelled at, that Mom and Dad weren’t happy but since the student had a plan Mom and Dad were calmer than usual.

No matter what the conference style has been every year since that first year I have had my students complete a reflection sheet and whenever possible I have the student lead the conference.

This is my original reflection sheet:

English Reflection Sheet

My _________ quarter grade is _______________.

I am very happy/ happy/ okay/ unhappy/ very unhappy with this grade.  Why?

Effort and Conduct: Circle most appropriate word to complete the sentence.

I usually/sometimes/rarely arrive to class promptly.

I am usually/sometimes/rarely prepared for class (pen or pencil, paper, book, planner.)

I usually/sometimes/rarely follow directions the first time given.

I usually/sometimes/rarely write down my complete assignments in my assignment book

I usually/sometimes/rarely complete my homework/classwork.

I usually/sometimes/rarely hand in my homework/classwork on time.

I usually/sometimes/rarely ask for help when I need it.

I usually/sometimes/rarely work quietly in class.

I usually/sometimes/rarely stay in my seat unless given permission to get up.

What do I need to improve the most?

What steps can I take to improve/maintain my effort and conduct?

What steps can I take to improve/maintain my grade?

What could my parents  and/or teacher do to help me improve/maintain my grade?

Now here is my more recent Reflection Sheet (though after reading Repair Kit for Grading I will be making some changes before I use it again)  they don’t look very different but there were things I thought were just too much on the previous version.  I was really just looking to simplify the form.

Communication Arts Self-Assessment

My   1st / 2nd / 3rd   quarter grade is ____% ____.

I feel this grade is:

I am usually/sometimes/rarely prepared for class (pen or pencil, communication arts binder, reading book, assignment book.)

I usually/sometimes/rarely complete my at-home reading logs.

What things did I do well this quarter?

What things do I need to improve on during the next quarter?

What do I need to do or continue to do in order to improve or maintain my grade?

How can my parent/guardian, Mrs. D. or another person (please name them in your response) help me achieve the goals stated in the question above.

So what do you think about conferences?  What has been the best for you?  What style do you like?  Did I miss any?