Categories
teaching

10 Things Your Child’s High School Teacher Wants You to Know

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Kids are back in school, and so are teachers and administrators.  As a retired teacher with 30 years of teaching under my belt, I thought I would share a few things.  Today I am talking to parents of high schoolers.

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1.  I may have up to 180 students to keep up with.  Unlike lower grades, there is no size cap on my classes.  I can have as many as 35 to 40 students in one class, which makes it difficult to monitor the behavior and work of each student all the time, although I do my best to do just that.


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2.  My work day begins way before students arrive and ends way after they leave.  I arrive up to an hour early each day in order to prepare my lessons and classroom for the day’s activities.  I may need to run copies and the earlier I can grab a copy machine, the better.  I also have to prepare and deliver lessons for students who are out of my classroom for the day, like those who are in in-school suspension or behavior adjustment classes.  After school I have tutoring or duty or I sponsor an extracurricular activity that may last well into the evening.  Then I have my own family to care for when I get home.

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3.  There is much more to do during my 45-minute conference period than I can physically accomplish.  Often staff development meetings are scheduled during this time.  My to-do list rarely gets completed and may include the following tasks:
  • call parents about behavior and/or grades;
  • consult with other teachers;
  • check and gather supplies;
  • prepare activities;
  • meet with administrators;
  • write lesson plans;
  • prepare power point presentations;
  • record grades;
  • prepare progress reports;
  • learn new technology;
  • fill out paperwork on special needs students;
  • attend meetings;
  • read and answer emails;
  • grade papers;
  • etc.
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4.  I would love for you to be a fly on the wall or peek into my classroom door window to see how your child is behaving during class, especially if I have contacted you about his or her behavior.  Most parents have no idea how their children behave at school, and they tend to believe what their children tell them, rather than what their teachers tell them. Many parents would be embarrassed at the behavior of their children.

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5.  Just because you send supplies with your child doesn’t mean he or she will make it to school or my class with them.  I can’t tell you how many pencils, pens, and sheets of paper I have given to students who show up to class without them.  I have tried everything I can think of to help them be more responsible, such as making them pay for supplies, making them trade personal items, sending notes home, etc.  Holding their personal items in exchange for supplies seems to work the best.

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6.  I can give a student a pencil every single day and he continues to come to my class without a pencil!  One day I got so frustrated I emptied an entire box of pencils on his desk and told him that he now had enough to last for awhile.  Did it work?  It made me feel better, but he still came the next day without a pencil!


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7.  I don’t hate your child or anyone else’s. Teenagers love drama and they will tell their parents that the reason they are failing or have detention (or whatever) is because the teacher hates them.  Don’t fall for it.

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8.  I would protect your child with my own life if it came to that.  The news media is continually amazed that teachers will put themselves in harm’s way to protect their students from gunmen or storms or whatever.  I know of no teacher I ever taught with who wouldn’t do the same thing.  Your children become our children when they enter our schools and classrooms.

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9.  I spend my own money on student supplies, classroom supplies, and decor.  If activities require scissors and glue sticks and journal notebooks, I will purchase them myself to make sure every student has them.  I decorate my classroom to make it a welcoming and comfortable place for me and my students, and I spend my own money and time to do so.  There is no money in the school’s budget for decor and very little for supplies.

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10.  I did not choose teaching as a last resort.  I chose teaching because I wanted to  be a teacher.  I wanted to be a positive influence on the world, and even though it is frustrating, maddening, exhausting, and draining, it is the most rewarding career I could have chosen.  I am proud to be a teacher. 

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It may be cheesy, but it is oh, so true.

XOXO
Categories
teaching

Teacher Tuesday: Admitting you’re wrong

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What?  Wrong?  Me?  But I’m the teacher!
Laughable, isn’t it?
But sometimes we teachers are afraid to admit when we have made a mistake.  After all, we are people, too, and people generally have a hard time admitting when they are wrong.
But, and this is a biggie, it is even more important for a teacher to admit mistakes.
Why?

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Because kids can spot a phony a mile away.
I have found that it is better to ‘fess up when you make a mistake than it is to try and cover it up.  If the outspoken students of today don’t call you on it in front of everyone, they will at the very least become distrustful of you as a disseminator of information and possibly as a person.

Case in point:  you misspell a word on your Powerpoint slide and a student questions you about it.  Instead of covering up with a little white lie such as “I must have been in a hurry,” it is better to just go ahead and admit that you misspelled the word.  The reason isn’t important to the kid.  What is important is that they see that you are human, you make mistakes, and you own them and learn from them. 
“Thanks for the catch, Joey!”
That kind of response will not hurt your credibility at all, and it will raise your esteem in your students’ eyes as well as giving the student who caught it a little boost.

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Yes, I know that was a minor example.  What about this situation?
You advise a whole class to take Chemistry the year after Biology only to have several of the students come back to you and tell you the counselors signed them up for another science course such as Physics instead of Chemistry.
Do you save face and give them an excuse or just go ahead and admit that you didn’t know what you were talking about?
Telling them the truth–that you were mistaken–will help them see you as a human being who sometimes makes mistakes.

Of course, it’s not a good idea to constantly make mistakes in the classroom.  After all, you are supposed to be the educated authority.  Make sure you know your subject matter but don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know the answer to a specific question.  

“But you’re the teacher!” is a response I heard a lot over my career.
My answer?  “Yes, but teachers can’t possibly know or remember everything.  Let’s find out together and we will both learn.”

So. . .go ahead and admit when you are wrong.  It’s okay.  They already know you aren’t perfect.  But now they will know they can trust you, and you will earn their respect.

XOXO

Categories
teaching

Teacher Tuesday: Establishing a routine

By this time, about the second week of school, you are probably beginning to accumulate papers, notebook or journal entries, memos from different offices or departments, and data that needs to be entered into the computer, such as grades and student information (special education, language learners, etc.).

As a teacher it was difficult to know what to do first.  I would arrive at my classroom, sit down, log on, and immediately there were ten emails from ten different people needing something ASAP.  It helps to create a system to keep you from becoming overwhelmed.
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I’m a “stack” person.  Some people are “file” people, and still others are “pin it” people.  Whatever you prefer, create stacks, files, or pinned stacks of items that need your attention.  I had my students turn in papers in one basket, and during my conference period or down time, I would sort the papers into individual assignments or class periods before beginning to grade them.  
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I had a certain place on my desk where I would keep things that needed to go to the office such as signed papers, things to put in the mail, papers that needed signatures, and assignments for other teachers or in-school-suspension.  Keeping this stack made it easy for me to just grab it and go when I went to the office.  I actually kept these things in a cute folder that was not easily lost in desk clutter.
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Things that only needed my attention once a week were designated a certain day when I would make sure they got done.  For example, when I was responsible for creating lessons for all of the elective courses for all the high school students in the discipline alternative school, I designated Thursdays as the day that I would work on those for the next week.  Starting on Thursday usually ensured that they would be done and ready for the students by Friday afternoon for the next week.

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There is never enough time during one’s conference period to get everything done.  How did that time get the title of “off period,” anyway?  If anything I was busier during that time than almost any other time of the day!  I always kept a running list of things I needed to get done during my conference period so that no time would be wasted when the time came.  I tried to multi-task as much as possible, and I worked with other teachers who taught the same subject as I did so that sometimes we could share duties such as running copies and setting up science labs.

There was something I always made sure I did no matter how late in the afternoon it was getting (unless I had to pick up children, of course).  I always cleared my desk, or at least made neat stacks of what was there.  Leaving your desk in chaos means you greet the next day with chaos.  It’s like getting up to dirty dishes in the sink.  It just starts the day off wrong!  A clean desk greeting you first thing is like starting with a clean slate, and we all need that in the mornings!
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Being a teacher requires so much more than just being able to share information with students.  A major requirement is the ability to organize and make the most of limited resources, including time.
Establishing some kind of routine for yourself will simplify your life a bit, allowing you to be your best in a very demanding, but also very rewarding profession.

What are some of your routines as a teacher?

XOXO
Categories
Junkin' and Thriftin' Memoirs

Thrifty Thursday: The very definition of the word

Lots of blogs and magazines these days talk about thriftiness and all its benefits.  Thrift stores abound, especially in big cities as people who choose shopping as recreation purge their homes of extra stuff and out-of-date decor.  But what exactly is thriftiness?  While thinking about how I was brought up by parents who each grew up in six-children homes on one income, and me in a one-income, blue-collar home with three siblings, I came up with some synonyms, scenarios, and serious definitions.  (Wow, what a sentence!)

To be thrifty is to:
  • Feed a husband and four children a once-a-week supper of ground beef and tortillas, allotting each child three tacos.  Sometimes my mother let my brother have four because he was the boy.
Us four children circa 1968.  I am at the top right.
  • Unpack boxes of hand-me-downs from the cousins every spring and fall.  Three girls in their family meant the clothes had already been worn three times before coming to our house to be worn three more times!  Except I was the oldest cousin so sometimes I was too big already for some of the clothing.
  • Buy Barbeque Fritos with my snack bar money, sneak them home, and hide the package under the couch to eat one by one while I watched TV.  If my siblings discovered I had Fritos, they would have eaten them all!  And no, I can’t find BBQ Fritos anymore, but Chili Cheese Fritos are very similar and still one of my favorites!
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  • Stand in line in the school cafeteria every Monday morning to pay for the week’s lunches for us four children.  It was my assigned duty because I was the oldest and most trustworthy with Daddy’s check.  It was always an anxious time for me because I worried about being late to class.  But then, I worried about everything when I was little.
  • Have Mama make my prom dresses.  Hey, it was the 70’s.  It wasn’t THAT bad.
  • Have a grandma who modeled thriftiness by shopping at Goodwill and remaking dresses to fit herself.  She proudly showed them off to us when we visited.
My beautiful Grandma Nunn in the 70’s.

  • Eat out at Whataburger where my dad bought six hamburgers and six Cokes and had us sit outside at the picnic tables in the back.  I didn’t taste fries until I was in junior high school.  I didn’t eat in at a real restaurant until I was in high school!
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I could go and on with many other definitions of thrifty, but I will save it for another day.  To paraphrase the most interesting man in the world,
“Stay thrifty, my friends!”
XOXO
Categories
Life teaching

Wedded Life Wednesday: A Temporary Discombobulation

I’ve been feeling sad the past couple of days, attributing it to my teacher’s soul feeling a bit left behind by the whole world going back to school.  Not that I really want to go to school myself, but there’s a weird feeling of restlessness and purpose-less-ness after thirty years of the August frenzy of preparing classrooms, offices, lessons, and families for the resumption of school activities.

I even went so far as to do some job searching online last night, but nothing I saw in the postings appealed to me.  I could be a bank teller, but that would mean 9 to 5 and possibly Saturdays.  Nah. . .
Retail stores will soon be hiring seasonal help for the holidays but that would mean long hours on my feet dealing with the public.  Nah. . .

Food service?  Nah, double nah!
Child care?  Ha!  That’s a triple nah!

In a funk, I watched three episodes of Grey’s Anatomy last night, ignoring my dirty bathrooms and unclean floors.  That cheered me up.  Not.  I never realized that Grey’s Anatomy was so sad!  But I’m hooked, and on the third season now.  Only six more to go to catch up. . .
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But back to my doldrums.  This morning I got up in a better mood, and I had a plan.  I got my husband off to work and I brought some more items to my booth at Uniques & Antiques.  I even sold one of my items while I was there!  Then I took my car to the Ford dealership and got the trailer hitch electrical connection fixed so we can tow the Scamp next month.

And I thought again about yesterday’s discombobulation.  I do have purpose.  I realized this when I waved goodbye to my husband as he drove off to work this afternoon.  For most of our adult lives I have not been here to see him off to work in the afternoons.  I haven’t been able to stay up to greet him at night when he comes in from work.  Now I can.  We keep weird hours, sleeping in every morning and staying up extremely late, but it’s what he wants me to do, and now that I am retired, I have the freedom to do it.
Me with the love of my life!
My purpose for now, until God reveals something else, is to maintain a loving and comfortable home for my family.  And also to write this blog.  Who knows?  Someday it may “go viral” and earn enough money to pay off all our debts.  Until then, I will do what the apostle Paul did and choose contentment.