Tuesday, August 4, 2015

How Teachers Can Make Teaching More Enjoyable

Many teachers realize that teaching can become quite a chore. From paperwork to parents, from colleagues to supplies, and overall working conditions. Being discouraged is not a good way to begin the teaching day. Teachers can burnout. So, what can you possibly do to make things better?

1. Go to bed early, get up early, and get to school early. The sooner you start your school day, the better. Why? Because the teachers who show up just before the bell rings, cannot possibly be prepared for kids. Some may disagree, but this shows your work ethic. You need more sleep than your students. You must be well prepared and organized. You can't do that with little sleep and no classroom time.

2. Stay after school. Get things done. Speak to parents and kids. Leave your classroom in good working order. Grade and prepare as much as possible. Home is not a great place for any of this.

3. Stop complaining. Of course things are not as good as they could be. But you took the job. You and you alone are the reason your students will learn and succeed. If you did not know that schools can be lacking and teaching was hard, shame on you. Complaining won't help. Nobody really wants to hear it anyway. Well, some do....

4. Avoid toxic teachers and staff. Don't become one of them. They are teaching killers. Why no look into what you can to improve things. Accept the things you can't change. Change the things you can. Recognize the difference. There are bad things you will just have to accept. So you must become...

5. A creative teacher. Make lemonade out of lemons. Look at the supplies and materials that are readily available to you. Make things happen out of them. It may sound like heresy, but there really is nothing wrong with spending a few dollars of you own money. The first person you should look to for "donations," is yourself.

6. Don't be selfish. It's not just about teachers. Every job comes with problems. Teaching is no different. But just like companies put customers first, you MUST put students first. Nothing else matters. Your students only get one shot. It's not a pleasant thought, and many teachers think otherwise, but you must sacrifice. There is no way around this. Teachers sometimes think that everything should be handed to them on a silver platter, and everything should be perfect. That's unrealistic.

7. Make life easier on yourself. You don't need to collect homework daily. You don't need to give out graded assignments daily. You can do oral work. Have at least one day a week that takes very little effort to plan and teach. You don't need to kill yourself.

8. Make friends with each parent. It takes little effort to call 5-10 parents a night. Be encouraging to them. Say positive things.

9. Be positive to your students. Make your class a real enjoyable learning experience.

10. You need to want to be there. Even if this means pretending. If you don't want to be there, how can you expect your students to want to be there? How many teachers and fellow staff members have you heard say how lousy of day it will be? I encountered many teachers, who even before school, were mumbling about how lousy it is. How is that going to make life different?

Teaching takes patience, endurance, willingness, eagerness, happiness, and hopefulness. Each day is new day! Forget the past, work on being better.

>> Learn how to be a positive teacher.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Top 10 Things Teachers Need in Their Classrooms

When you are putting together a classroom, we all know the usual things a teacher needs. However, there are some items a teacher should have in each classroom. Here are the top 10 things teachers need in their classrooms.

1. Hand sanitizer. Kids and classrooms together make germ factories. Protect yourself during flu season and beyond.

2. Pencils. No student should have an excuse. Just give 'em one. Sharpen them up to start the day. The school might supply a box or two. Check the classroom floor after each class. Pens and pencils seem to accumulate.

3. A radio or CD player. You can lesson plan and grade better with music or news. Your students might also get a kick out of music to work by.

4. Extra writing paper. See pencils above.

5. Extra chalk or whiteboard markers. If you write a lot on the board, you need plenty of spares.

6. Tissue paper. You know, kleenex.

7. Snacks for you. Between classes or recess, you will need a quick recharge. Don't let students know you have them.

8. Bottle of water. See #7.

9. Emergency substitute teacher plans. Have some packer somewhere that can be used in case of emergencies.

10. Yourself. Okay, things happen. That's why #9 is here. But the best teacher your students can have on any given day, is you. Be there.

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Friday, July 3, 2015

IEP Meetings do not Have to be Confrontantional or Dreaded

If you dread IEP meetings, you are not alone. Just the mere mention of IEP sends a teacher thinking of ways to either get out of it, or just put up with it and move on. But IEPs are there for a reason. They are connected to laws that must be followed. You give your parents a disservice if you do not take them seriously. Parents are your friends, or at least they should be. And did you know that IEPs give teachers things as well? Use these meetings to make friends, not enemies for all concerned.

Show up with all information you are going to use printed out and ready to hand out. Be able to prove what you are saying. Answer questions on it with tact and even tone of voice. If you don't already have copies of all school and district policies, you should. Bring them with you to the meeting. Make sure you are well aware of them all. Some parents will know the ones that they need by heart. Do you? If someone talks about how things have always been done, and the written policy is different, ask to see it.

The time for these meetings is pretty short. Always say you understand and are willing to go in depth more in a different meeting and settings. Always ask for a date and time.

You will be asked to make accommodations and use other techniques for some children. Know exactly how you will implement them and/or how you are expected to implement them. Don't say they are impossible. Just express any concerns you have in a reasonable manner, not confrontational. You will be expected to follow the IEP! Now is your time to modify it if you can.

Always be prepared to explain what is helping. Don't concentrate on the negative all the time. Showing that you have victories is to your advantage. Talk about your personal strengths and teaching abilities that can be used.

Don't tell anyone they are flat out wrong. Don't allow yourself to be called flat wrong. In response, call it a misunderstanding. Explain your information, where it came from, and what there's is.

Never tell a parent that you, the school, or the district, just does not have the wherewithal to implement all that is needed in the law. You are all actually expected to do it. Everyone MUST work together. The school, teacher, and parent. Start getting all sides to contribute with their responsibility. If parents perceive that everyone is working for them, they will not be so quick as to nitpick each and every letter of the plan. The law is really there to help the child, not punish schools. Schools must provide all services that are warranted.

This one is huge. There MUST be a person of authority who can make final decisions. Period. And that means decisions on the cost and staff that will be needed. I would never show up at a meeting without such a person.

Parents will show up with things that they see are not going well. Politely set up a meeting with the parents as to how things can go better. If there's time in the meeting, do it then. But don't be blindsided. If you don't know that a parent thinks Johnny or Susie are getting too hard homework that can't be done, shame on you if the first time you hear of it is in an IEP meeting.

Someone (teachers?) will always chime in how some things are going to be impossible. Parents do not like to hear that. Instead, have several proposals that can be used in place of something that seems, "impossible."

Above all, don't panic. You don't need to feel under the gun. Relax and work things out. But you need to make sure IEPs are reasonable for you to. Speak up and have amiable dialogues about you have trouble with.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Monday, June 1, 2015

Traits to be a good teacher

One size does not fit all for teachers. That is, students come in all varieties of learning styles and backgrounds. Teaches also come different as well. But a child stepping into a classroom should expect certain things from a teacher. All teachers should have basic traits that are conducive to learning and teaching. Students rarely get to choose their classroom environment. You as the teacher are their one and only hope for the grade or subject they are in. So, what really makes a teacher do well enough so that all students are able to learn?

The teacher is a leader, not a drill sergeant. Leadership from a teacher is so much better than what a football coach does, driving their students like cattle.

Teachers keep it real. He or she is not fake. They are humble and unpretentious, but they demonstrate they have expert ability.

A teacher is a servant, not thinking about themselves first, but their students.

A teacher always shows kindness and is never harsh.

A teacher has obvious for a love of being in the classroom, and enjoys being there teaching in the company of students.

A teacher is even-handed, ethical, compassionate, amiable, sympathetic, generous, and unselfish.

A teacher is optimistic, not pessimistic. Hopeful, not discouraging. Trustful, not suspicious. Poised, not easily rattled.

A teacher is forgiving, cheerful, courageous, strong-willed, but tactful.

A teacher is tolerant, open, respectful.

What kind of teacher would you want?

>> More tips to be a great teacher.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Should we be teaching cursive in schools?

The debate is that maybe cursive writing is a thing of the past and we should not be teaching it. A lot of teachers and educators can't seem to let go, and think we should be teaching it. Of course we all know it is a thing of the past. With email being the number one way of communicating, writing letters has indeed become a thing of the past. But that's not really related to education, is it?

So let's take a look at the educational side. In years past, an elementary student would need to start writing stories and essays using cursive. It was a more formal way of writing. Then, around junior high, one needed to type their research papers and essays. Of course we still mostly wrote a rough draft using pen or pencil. But were we forced at that time to do it in cursive? No. Our final paper must have been typed.

That means that even in days gone by, at least the last 50 years, school-age students were not turning in essays and research reports using cursive.

We now are at a stage where nobody has a need for it. Everything revolves around computer, tablet, or smartphone keypads. No writing of any kind is required. Even at a very early age. Of course some sort of writing is needed. We scribble notes, maybe send cards, and young kids in elementary school still need some sort of writing.

But is cursive handwriting really needed? Not today. I can't say the last time I saw a cursive note written. We jot things down, printing things with little thought.

Before some teachers go bonkers with no cursive, they must come to grips with the fact that it is a thing of the past. If teachers thought about the past, they might be more readily convinced that cursive is indeed, a thing of the past. Here are some of the things that you might not have thought of.

Girls were taught how important it was to sew and do needlepoint. I doubt if any teacher would want to require that. Students used slate and chalk. We certainly do not want to go back to that. In fact, educators are screaming to use online textbooks! Colleges, and some high schools, are doing many classes online.

When I was a kid, using a slide rule was a needed skill. I challenge anyone today to tell kids that they need to know how to use a slide rule.

We do not actually write the way we did even 25 years ago. Of course we need to have kids work on things in school that are needed. We have changed many things. There really is no need for a child to struggle with mastering cursive. Perhaps to appease some teachers, kids could get a quick lesson, but not be required to use it.

It's just a fact that adults do not use cursive. There is no reason to require it in school. 60 years ago, Latin was required. Who today would want to force their students to learn Latin? We need to let go.

>> Free worksheets

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Common Core Teaching Tips

Are you a teacher dealing with common core standards? Perhaps you are struggling or looking for ways to improve your classroom experience. Remember, common core standards are just that, standards. Good teaching has not gone out of style or replaced. But many teachers have not been taught good teaching practices in college. Doing the common core actually requires quite  bit of what one should call good teaching techniques.

First, many teachers have trouble getting students to collaborate on anything. Many don't even want to. But having students work together and help each other should be in every classroom. You cannot reach all students at once. Many students quickly grasp the material and can pass that along. If you were not doing this before, you should now. We will leave it up to you at this point to seek help on how to do group activities. One important tip is not NOT let students choose their own groups. You must divide them up evenly, with a good student in each group, as well as poorer students passed around as well. Your classroom has to be setup so that you can move quickly from groups to individual, as well as allowing the teacher to get around the classroom quickly. You won't stop "teaching" just because students are in groups. Another group work tip is to have students listen to you every few minutes. Students can get off track after awhile. So get them to look and listen to you at various times. You can answer questions and give feedback, as well as perhaps steer them back in the right direction.

Before planning lessons, look at the standards. Single out some that you know students either don't know, or will have difficulty doing. Place more emphasis on these. Also, your lessons do not need to only cover one standard. All lessons you do should included multiple standards.

You will still need to stand in front of the class and lecture. But good teaching is not just lecturing. It is engaging.  Ask questions,  get feedback,  change your voice inflection, be animated. Most teachers have not heard that being a good listener is also required to be a good learner.

Just because it's "common core," it does not mean that you can't interject your own material, ideas, and techniques.

>> Teaching Strategy for calling on students. >> Being a creative teacher.