Monday, August 23, 2010

Teachers and Insurance

When it comes to insurance, teachers are in some unique situations. Are you part of a union? Chances are they have fought for some great medical insurance benefits. Learn how to use them to the fullest. Talk to your human resources representative, or sometimes called personnel. Many times they give you options. Most school districts pay your premiums in full, so nothing out of your paycheck. But you do need to check and see if they offer different coverage plans. Each person's situation is unique and what is best for one is not best for another. Look at the options especially if you have a family. What dependents are covered? When can you add them? Many times you can only add new dependents during certain times of the year. Different coverages have different co-payments and other out-of-pocket expenses. If you are a new hiree, you really need to get as much information to make a wise choice. Ask for all pamphlets available.

Other coverage such as dental and vision are another case. Sometimes they are included in the medical, many times they are not. Certainly if you have kids you will want to look at what is offered. Be aware that most dental and vision plans only cover some of the costs. Rarely do they cover everything. You will be surprised if you have never received a dental bill as to how much you are expected to pay. And some employers will charge you for dental or vision. If you do not need glasses, and are single, you may be able to skip this coverage. For example, if you are charged $20 a month for vision, and you get glasses, it may only cover the vision test, lenses, and perhaps $25 towards the frames. Since the total cost per year is $240, you may not get $24 worth of benefits each year. Walmart and other department stores offer low-cost check-ups and glasses. Sometimes the cost is much cheaper than paying premiums. The situation is similar for dental, although there is no low-cost alternative. But the plan may be something like 80/20. Meaning they will pay for 80% of approved procedures and you will be responsible for 20%. Certainly this is a much better deal than vision. But if a crown is $1200, you can bet you will have about $240 out of pocket! Add to this that many times you are talked into procedures that are only cosmetic. Chances are you will foot this whole bill. Some dentists have low-cost options for kids and first time patients.

Life and disibility insurance are two other common options. Your union probably has negotiated both of these. Normally they are quite good. Insurance companies may try and talk you into more coverage. Life insurance is more of a personal choice. How much do you need? If you have children, you may need more. Be aware that if you have a mortgage, you probably have some time of insurance that pays it off if parents die. You will almost always be asked to get more life insurance, so watch out. Disability can be a touchy subject as well. They will try and scare you into buying more. Chances are, you school district offers a basic plan for free that probably provides you coverage of a disability for a few years. Then and only then would any extra coverage kick in. Add to this that most times you CANNOT collect on more than one policy at a time. When you factor in state disability and social security or other federal programs, extra disability insurance may be a waste of money. Read the fine print. Plenty of school districts have generous vacation, personal days, or sick days that can be saved and used later. Some have rules that say you must use these before you tap into any disability insurance.

Bottom line, look over your situation carefully. If you are single, chances are you do not as much coverage as a married person with kids. If you have kids you certainly need to look at the options you will use, as well as which makes it convenient. Some cheaper insurance with lower copayments may be more complicated to use and get seen. Sometimes it is prudent to spend a few extra dollars up front and on copayments if you or your kids can get seen anytime, anywhere.

The dangers:
Getting talked into more insurance than you need.
Getting insurance that you will never use.
Getting insurance that is difficult to use.
Not getting enough insurance.
Not knowing the rules of your insurance.

Don't forget summer! Ask if you do not get a paycheck in the summer, are you still covered? If not, ask how you can get covered.

>>Home loans for teachers.

>>Best books for teachers.

Friday, August 20, 2010

How GREEN is your classroom?

Are you a green teacher? Are you trying to create a green classroom? The first thing you can do is reduce paper. Try to have paper-less days. Do more oral, group, and board work. Not every assignment needs to be graded. Not every day do students need to turn things in. School is about learning, not necessarily remembering or memorization. Have a class discussion.

You can call more than one student up to the board to work on problems. Call on students to add sentences or answer questions on the board. They love that.

White board or chalk board? I can only assume that a traditional chalkboard is more environmentally friendly than a white board. White board markers have chemicals and fumes. But the chalk does stir up dust. Do a little research to find out!

Recycle all scraps of paper! If students do not need to take home paper assignments, keep a recycle bin for this purpose. If you teach at a secondary school, all students can recycle paper from all their other classrooms.

Encourage students to refill water bottles.

However, you do not necessarily want this to be school wide all at once. You may be thought of as a pest. Start working slowly on your colleagues and students!

For more GREEN classroom information, go to: Creating a green classroom.

>>Breastfeeding, baby care, and new mom resources.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Switch careers, become a teacher

So, you want to be a teacher?

Well, first thing to know is that you have to have the disposition to be a teacher. It takes a certain type of person. You must be willing to adapt, solve problems, work with kids, and work hard.

But the rewards for teaching are quite immense and that's one of the perks about being a teacher. It can be fun and very satisfying.

it is true that schools have been laying off teachers. But it's not as bad as you think. Some districts and states are hiring, and there are shortages of math, science, bilingual, and special education teachers.

Teachers normally have a job that comes with some stability, a steady salary, and very good benefits.

You certainly need a college degree to start, then you need to be certified in some way. But, there are alternative programs in virtually all states. Some are internships, some are other programs rather than a traditional college avenue.

With the economy in the way it is, it just might be the perfect time to switch careers. You can get student loans and scholarships, and put off job hunting for at least a little while.

Virginia seems to be at the forefront of alternative ways to be a teacher. One new one is the Virginia Career Switchers program. You have to pass a test, take some online classes, then get into the classroom and get help in classroom skills during scheduled meetings. It takes about 18 months to complete the program and costs a little over $3,000. Keep in mind that math and science teachers are in high demand, while others may need to wait for an opening. If you have a college degree and want to teach, check out the program.
There are other national alternative ways to become a teacher. The American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence is another way, but not all states recognize it. Another large program is the New Teacher Project.

>>Read more ways on being a teacher and finding a teaching job.

>>College money help.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Standardized Tests!

I hear a lot of people putting down standardized tests. What many fail to realize, is that almost every profession has some sort of written standardized test! You cannot be a lawyer, nurse, doctor, contractor, or... The list is endless.

We even make people take a standardized test to get a driver's license!

Standardized tests are not bad! In fact, at the moment, it is the ONLY thing we have to measure student performance.

Teachers have many complaints about the test. But again and again, you only hear about wanting to get rid of them. That's bad. As stated above, standardized tests are not bad. In fact, teachers in California must take a standardized test, the CBEST test, to become a teacher! Why? Again, they are not bad, they are common, and they are the only thing we have!

Add to this the fact that many colleges and universities were sick and tired of getting freshmen who cannot read or write at a freshman level. Many people agreed that we were graduating students who lacked skills. This is not what we want. But, we allowed the system to move students along and not make them accountable. A high school diploma meant almost nothing. Here again in California, the high school exit exam was enacted. It really tests at a 9th or 10th grade level. Why do we complain? Don't we as teachers want to show the world our students are capable? Plus, I find it ironic that virtually all colleges have some sort of entrance exam. How about graduate school? You probably cannot get a masters degree unless you take a standardized test!

Standardized tests are not evil. What is, is killing students by having them sit for hours taking them. What do we really need to do? How about these:

1)Shorten the test. There is no way I need to answer 50 questions for someone to know that I can understand what I read.

2)Make the test count towards the students grade. Every subject should have an end of semester test, standardized, and curriculum driven.

3)Pay the students! Okay, at first you think I'm nuts. Not so fast. I know of schools and districts that spend thousands of dollars on prep classes and remedial work. Fine and dandy. But how about taking some of that money and paying the students? If you score at the proficient level, you get $100, and each increment gets lower amount. Even the bottom. I can almost assure you that you would get more bang-for-the-buck by spending money this way. The students now have a HUGE incentive to actually take the test and do well! Instead of spending cash on useless programs, spend it wisely!

3)Stop putting down tests! It's all we have and it makes us look like whiners. If the real world runs on standardized tests, lets work together to implement them the right way. If not, we will continue to have other people's tests shoved down out throats. We as teachers need to take control of what and how these tests are given.

>>Using technology in the classroom.

>>New teacher tips.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Two things a teacher must do in order to be successful

Teaching is not like the movies. You cannot walk into a classroom full of kids and just wow them. You cannot do things on the spot, making stuff up as you go along. Your classroom will have no continuity, focus, rhyme or reason. That's not good teaching. Here are two things teachers need to get squared away to have a truly successful classroom.

Classroom Management.
Classroom management is the day to to day tasks. How you take attendance, collect papers, transition from one lesson to the next, student dismissal, anything that goes with running a classroom. Teachers need a routine. They need a plan. Your students need familiarity with what goes on and know what to expect. Get this down, and your class will have a better chance of running smoothly. The first thing you need is a routine for coming in and starting the class. This can be a handout or boardwork. While students are working on this, you are collecting homework, taking attendance, etc. Don't make this a short assignment. You don't want them to finish before you. You need to keep them busy and focused. Click here for help with classroom management.

Classroom Discipline.
Classroom discipline is the way you deal with problems your students may cause through their behavior. It is NOT classroom management. A few things are important when getting to classroom discipline. A quiet class is not always a working class. Little act-ups are not worth making federal cases out of. Major problems are few and far between. Teachers can cause more problems. You don't really need a list of rules. Does this sound different than what you have heard? Classroom discipline can be as hard as you make it. Again, classroom management is key. Don't give your students a reason or time to act up. Here is just a short scenario. Students like to play with bathroom breaks to cause disruptions and see how far they can go. If you let bathroom breaks be a problem, THEY WILL be a problem! If the class knows that you will not let them go within the first 15 minutes of class, but you WILL let them go, guess what? Problem solved. You can also have a one-student-out-of-the-room at a time policy. Again, problem solved. You can also have a no students goes within 5 minutes of another. Problem solved. The reason the problem gets solved is because now your students know you are not confrontational. Your button cannot be pushed by bathroom breaks. They also have the freedom to go. And they like that. Take that freedom away, and you will have chaos. Most little behavior problems are caused by students feeling they are "oppressed." You may have to modify this for your classroom. You can't get everything from reading, just general tips. >Click here for more real world classroom discipline tips.

You are not the same as another teacher. Never let another teacher snooker you into becoming and acting like them. They all have one good idea, but not everything they say and do is golden. This is especially true of education professors in college, sadly. But you probably found that out the first day of teaching!

>How to assign homework.

>How to lessen teacher stress.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Teachers can get free money for their projects

Many teachers have found that they need to pay for some things out of their own pockets. Many times these are for extra, curriculum enriching projects that enhance the learning process. Many districts just cannot find extra money, so any alternative that teachers have for funding is great.

Teachers can put a project online and request the funds at is a charity that funds education projects. Teachers post their projects, and others choose to pay for it. Potential donors go to the website and look for projects they would like to fund. Other funds match it from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Here are a few tips for teachers to post projects. Do a quick search to see how a proposal should be written. It should fully explain all you want and need, as well as what you will do with it and how it will help your students. Give your proposal a title that will stand out. Ask funds for projects that can be reusable. Keep your initial proposals low, $200 to $400. Be patient. If you need something in the Fall, request it in June or July.

If you are a teacher who does have extra cash, perhaps you can even scan the site, for small projects you can fund and help out a fellow teacher. Many projects are $50 or less.

>>Be a great teacher.

>>Home loans for teachers.

>>Preschool teachers resources.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Start and end class with classroom management

Teachers, if you do not have your classroom management set and in practice, your classroom is probably not being run very effectively. All other things that go on in your classroom hinge on your classroom management.

Now remember, classroom management is not what you do for discipline. Classroom Discipline is a whole other ballgame. Classroom management is how you run your classroom from start to finish.

It is a method. It's opening your class properly, it's doing daily things like collecting papers, it's dismissing your class properly, and everything else in between.

Your classroom management is a plan and routine you follow daily. If you have a routine, your students know what to expect and when. Your classroom discipline will also improve.

Here are just a few tips. Have your students doing something the minute they walk in the classroom. Put a daily problem or discussion question on the board. You don't actually want students to finish it. You want them to be working while you do daily items like attendance, collect papers, etc. Then while they are still working, you discuss the problem on the board. This morphs you into the today's lesson.

You basically need the same routine to end. Your students should be actively engaged up until 1 second before the bell rings. You don't want them done even 5 minutes before. Your students will squirm, talk, and maybe even stand up and head for the door! You can do this by having an oral discussion as to what they should have learned.

The more students have a routine in your classroom, the better. They need to be engaged in learning from the moment they enter, to the moment they leave.

>>Get more classroom management tips here.

>>Student engagement tips.