Thursday, September 1, 2011

What teachers wish parents would do

Are you a parent? Do you know your child's teacher? Did you know there are a few things that teachers wish parents would do? Here are just some of the many things parents can do to make a teacher's job a little easier.

First of all, you have to stay in touch with the teacher. Get the teacher's email and ask questions. Above all, you have got to make sure you receive all notes and written notices and assignments sent home. It is a good idea to ask the student each day for these notes. It is not a bad idea to actually go through a child's backpack looking for relevant notes and assignments. You should not use the excuse that you did not see a notice. If your school does email, see if any important notices are posted online or emailed.

Teachers wish children came to school with basis survival skills. What are these? Well, for starters, tying shoes! If you send your child to school with shoes that have laces, shame on you if the child cannot tie them alone. Yes, we know you like to take care of your child, but you also need to make them independent.

Turn off the TV, video games, and computers for at least a little while in the afternoon or evening. Children need active playtime and also time to study and do homework. Unplugging and playing active games will teach them skills as well.

Take a personal interest in your child and their day. Have conversations with them specifically about what they did. It will help your child grow and let you in on what goes on at school. You and your child both need this. Do this daily, and the talks will become longer, more meaningful, and maybe set the stage for lifetime communication.

Just for fun: The Truth About teachers!

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Free rewards for students

Yes, that's right FREE! If you teach, you know how you can really spend money on your classroom for things like rewards. Anything from candy to stickers, from toys to pens or pencils. While we always look for cheap rewards bought in bulk, we still are spending money. And maybe putting the wrong impression on students. That they need a sore-bought reward in order to behave. So what do you do? Is there really free rewards that teachers can pass out? You bet there is! Keep in mind that these free rewards are best suited for elementary school classrooms.

The teaching rewards handed out will be suited for tables, individuals, or maybe the whole class. Before we begin with the rewards, we should mention that we are not going to talk about how and when to give them out. That is entirely up to the teacher withing class and school rules. So, here we go!

Free student rewards!

Lunch with the teacher. You can have students eat in the classroom with you, or sit at a lunch table next to the reward winners.

Going to recess early. Obviously you must check with the school rules and you must be on duty until the regular recess begins.

Go for a walk on the school grounds on a nice day. Again, it must be within the rules. You can even disguise it as a fun activity and put a little teaching in it as well.

Have a special piece of clothing or accessory that can be worn in class. You really need to be careful about this one. Special hats may be a problem with hygiene. There are things like vests that may be safe. Even a large necklace.

Teacher's helper. This student gets to pass out papers and other things during the day.

A special desk location. Have a desk in a special place, like next to the teacher's desk that is a "special" seat. Make it special by decorating it and making it fancy colors or theme.

A stuffed animal day. Students are allowed to bring their favorite stuff animal to school and sit with it all day long. This can be individual or class reward.

A great note or phone call home. Send special notes about students or call home for great work and behavior.

Board eraser. Let a student erase the board all day long when you finish.

Visit another classroom. If you have older students, say 3rd grade and above, chances are the kindergarten teacher would allow them to visit to help. Kids love helping out. Maybe even other grades will allow your students to come and "help" out in their classrooms too.

The school you are working at probably has supplies needed for some of these "free" rewards.

Hopefully after reading this list, you can now come up with more on your own!

>>How to motivate students.

>>Confrontational students.

Thanks for visiting the Teachers Blog. Be sure and visit for more great teaching tips!


Monday, July 11, 2011

New Teachers, Test Scores, and other Myths

A lot has been written and broadcast over the past several months about unions and tenure. How tenure is keeping bad teachers in and layoffs are keeping good teachers out.

The myth is that veteran teachers are bad and new teachers are better. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Each teacher must be looked upon as an individual. Too many times when you see a new teacher get laid off, you think that the district just let go a fantastic teacher that would have changed the world. We know that's just not the case. New teachers can be bad. Very bad. They can also be good. Very good. But we seem to equate "new" teacher with "great" teacher. We can't in reality do that.

Students only get one shot. We can't say because a teacher is new, enthusiastic, and has different ideas, that suddenly we have a great teacher. This makes us look at veteran teachers as being something less. That they are old, tired, and do things in ways that are not conducive to learning. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Is the system unfair? Perhaps. But in education, experience counts for a lot. There are things that a teacher must learn and master over time.

The system may need to be changed. But we need to stop villifying veteran teachers as a whole. And just because a teacher is new, does not make them effective.

Which leads to standardized test scores. LAUSD is using a value added system to find effective teachers. Test scores are one part. People keep complaining about teachers teaching to the the test. Nothing could be further from the truth either. Effective teachers teach the state mandated curriculum in effective ways that get results on standardized tests. They don't teach to the test. In fact, many teachers that may actually "teach to the test" are not effective at offering up the curriculum, and, their students do poorly.

One key ingredient in successful test taking, is interest and enthusiasm. Teachers that are effective will instill a responsibility in students to do their best. Not just sleep walk through the test.

Standardized testing is here to stay. It is not right that teachers complain about them. Many careers, from plumbers to doctors, and lawyers to contractors, must pass tests. Students cannot get a drivers license without passing a written, multiple choice test. Is a high school education any less valuable than a drivers license? If we can demand that our drivers on the highways pass a written test, how more so our students?

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>How to be a Teacher and Find a Teaching Job

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Teachers should make their tests fair and balanced

One of the common complaints of students is that the tests are not fair. They don't know what to study. They don't recognize the material on the test. They didn't study that.

Teachers can and should be ready to make their tests fair. You want to give every student a fair shot at passing, especially those that are making at least the minimal effort to learn. This does not mean making the tests easy. It means that students should not be blind-sided by test questions. Every question should be very familiar to those students that have studied and paid attention. Remember, not every student can be an "A" student.

So, how do you go about making your tests fair? First, let's use a general percentage of 70% as a passing grade. That means that 70% of the questions you ask MUST be ones that the average student can get correct. Those would be your "C" students. Every student should be able to pass the test, provided they did satisfactory work and study.

How about the advanced students? You don't want to make 100% of the test average questions. Just 70% as above. If your "B" is 80%, that means 20% of the questions will ones that are a little more advanced. A student must make some extra effort to be awarded a "B." As far as the other 10%, those are the advanced questions. Which will mean that a student that earns an "A" will actually deserve it. They will truly be an "A" student.

You can take even further steps to make your tests fair. Here are some tips:

Have students come up with test questions. Out the students in groups and have each group come up with two questions. Print them and pass them out to the students. Tell them you will pick several questions from this list.

Want to avoid collecting and grading homework? Give the students a homework problem list for each section in the book, and tell them that you will pick 50% of the test questions from this list. The questions will look exactly like they appear in the book. A wise student will then have an incentive to work on homework problems. The test will actually check who has been studying. If you don't want to do this for a test, it certainly makes sense for a quiz. Make the quiz 100% of questions off of the list. Don't collect homework. Just give one quiz a week.

At various times during your weekly lectures, point out questions that are sure-things for a test or quiz.

Give the students a choice. Sometimes students study one thing and overlook another. Average students will do this. So, give a test of 20 questions and tell the students to pick 15 of their choice to answer.

Don't count all points on an exam or test. This is better than giving a bonus question. Most bonus questions are answered by luck. You don't want lucky students passing. But you can give everyone extra points this way: Let's say the entire test is worth 60 points. You tell the students you are counting it out of 55 points. Everyone gets roughly 5 free points. And yes, they can get over 100%. Again, that's rewarding your best students but not penalizing your average ones. This will also eliminate any arguments over whether a question is fair or not. You are giving them a freebie. It will also avoid the students who demand to have a question regraded. You simply tell them because of the free points, no regrades.

Remember, the best thing you can do to make the tests fair, is to present material that will be tested in a way that the average student can learn, and get a passing grade.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Top things teachers should never do.

Remember, teaching is a profession. You are a professional. Many times, we tend to forget that. Here are some some of the worse things teachers can do.

Scream and yell. If you want to look bad in front of your students and staff, then you will raise your voice. Sure way to shorten your teaching career. This is related to losing your temper in class. Don't do it. No matter what, keep your emotions under control. You are the teacher, boss, and leader. You can get respect without yelling.

Also on this note, classroom teachers should not single out a student and belittle them. This includes chewing them out for doing something, or not doing something. You will never brow beat a student into behaving or learning. You will only look like a foolish teacher. And quite an ineffective one at that.

This includes getting upset for every little thing. Little things happen in class. They do not all require punishment, referrals, calls to the principal, etc. Let it go. Acknowledge it, then move on. Most things you encounter in class will be very minor. Discipline is also logical. Don't make mountains out of mole hills.

Remember that you are the teacher. If you let your students control you and the class, you have lost. You will be a very ineffective teacher. You make the rules and you must stick with them.

Don't be unfair. Your tests, quizzes, and assignments should be such that the average student can get a passing grade. Grade consistently. If you grade hard, then soft, then hard, your students will play you like a fiddle.

Do not treat some students differently. They should all get the same treatment. You cannot be nice to one student, then have different rules for another.

Last but not least, do not talk about the school and staff in demeaning ways. Don't agree with students that another teacher is lousy. Don't complain about the school to your students. Don't gossip.

You must be a fair teacher, in complete control, and act in a professional manner. It's sounds simple, and it is. But teachers are human and can fall into certain modes without thinking. So be diligent!

>>Dealing with confrontational students.

>>Create Free math worksheets.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Things good teachers do!

College does not teach you all you need to know to be a teacher. Some of it is on the job training. In fact, quite a bit is. There are little nuances that good teachers know and incorporate into their teaching and classrooms. You can raise the odds of you being a good teacher if you do the following.

Teachers need to have a positive attitude and want to be there. Show up to each teaching day as if it is the best day ever. Greet your students enthusiastically each and every day. Be ready and well prepared, tackling the lesson plans with fervor! Your enthusiasm will be contagious. Your students will be enthusiastic as well.

Teachers, you don't have to take everything seriously. Put a little humor into your day and lesson plans. Don't let little things bother you. The more congenial you are, the more congenial your students will be. They will see that you are not easily angered and will appreciate that. Laugh some things off, and you will lower your stress level as well!

Demand performance from your students. Don't compromise on standards or goals. You need to want your students to perform at the highest level. Don't water anything down. Demand your students perform! The more you demand, the more you will get.

Teachers must be consistent and fair. Your students must know what is expected from them on a daily basis. Get your students into a routine. This helps with your classroom discipline as well. Don't be wishy-washy. Your students will not trust you. But in being consistent, you must be fair. If you are constantly changing things due to lack of response, then you will need to change. Sometimes you have to have a little wiggle room. Sometimes teaching can be the art of compromising without looking like you are compromising. When your students know you are fair, they will perform accordingly.

Which leads to the last one. Teachers, you've got to be flexible. Sometimes thing don't go right and you have to adjust. Sometimes you will ask too much of your students and will need to alter the lesson plans. Things happen. Flexibility works hand in hand with being fair. This does not mean you treat students differently. Far from it. You treat the class the same way, being flexible for all students when necessary.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Two biggest mistakes teachers make

New teachers, and even old ones, sometimes are ripe for mistakes in their teaching procedures. Some teaching mistakes are minor and are immaterial to the overall scheme of classrooms. However, each and every teacher should be aware that there are at least two huge mistakes that can be costly.

The first is being best friends with your students. You are not a friend, but a teacher. This does not mean you cannot befriend students. Big difference. You are the adult, they are the child. You are not to become buddies. Too many teachers take the approach that being a teacher involves being a friend to every student. This "friend" definition is really more close to winning a popularity contest. Teachers err by doing things that will get students to like them, as opposed to doing things to get students to learn. Teacher must demand and get respect. If not, your whole classroom discipline falls flat or even fails. Your students actually want you to be a leader. To teach. To grade fairly. To demand that they perform to the utmost of their ability. That's your job, actually.

The other big mistake teachers make is by being very lax or have a nonexistent discipline plan. Or worse, one that is not enforced the same way all the time. You must have a discipline plan and stick to it. This is in direct correlation to the first mistake above. You cannot waiver on this. If you do not start out on the right, firm foot, you will have a very tough year. Do not think that you can get by without one, and then later, come up with one if needed. It will be too late and next to impossible. Like putting toothpaste back in a tube.

If you are a new teacher and need help, get it!

>>Help for new teachers.

>>Teacher resources on campus.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Late Homework Policies

If a teacher is going to assign homework, sooner or later a student is going to turn it in late. Or not at all and ask for an extension. What is your late work policy? Do you make it up on the fly? Many teachers do, but this is not being fair to all students. Every teacher should have a stated, clear policy when it comes to turning in late assignments.

First, check to see if your school or district has a policy about late assignments. Many do. Your homework policy cannot go against this.

Here are some more tips for teachers and collecting homework.

Collect it immediately when students enter class, or shortly thereafter. Do not collect it whenever the student wants to turn it in.

Give some credit for incomplete work. You will save a lot of trouble if you do this.

You need clear options for grading late work. Have a set policy. What penalty will it cost the student to turn in late work?

How about students who are absent? Your district and school probably have clear policies as to when a student is able to turn in work assigned or collected while they were on an excused absence.

How long will you accept late work? One day? Two days? These are important details to have down.

A good way to cut down on daily collecting of homework is to give long-term assignments. But even these must have due dates.

The mistake many teachers make is not having a set policy for late work. This will only cause problems, and student will push the limit if they know you are not firm.

It is worth repeating that your policy must be aligned with school-wide rules.

Here is a general guide.

For absent students, work should be due after the same number if days the student was absent. Most students are absent one or two days. If they were absent on Tuesday, back on Wednesday, the work would be due on Thursday. For longer absences, it is a good idea to send work home, actually. A parent or guardian can pick it up at the office.

For late homework, you need a cut off date and penalty. One day late, 10% less, two days late, 20% less, 3 days late, no credit.

The best tip as that you assign homework in such a way as to avoid a lot of students turning it in late. You could assign homework during the week, but have a due date of Friday.

Click here for more information and tips on assigning homework.

>>Create free math worksheets.

>>Handling confrontational students.