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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

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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
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teaching

Teacher Tuesday: Advice for the new teacher

Much has been written for and about teachers, especially advice for the new teacher, but I thought I would devote today’s blog post to that subject anyway.  After 30 years of teaching and administrating, I feel like I know a little something about the field, so here goes. . .
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  • As a new teacher about to begin your first real school year, you no doubt have spent some sleepless nights, tossing and turning with planning and anticipation of what your very own classroom will be like.  You are looking forward to meeting your students, but then again there is a sense of dread and fear, wondering if you can really pull it off.  Relax.  You can.  You have all the training and knowledge that all of rest of us had, probably even more these days with all the technology and research now available.  You can do this!
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  • Now for some practical advice.  I know that the first bit of advice is a bit difficult. No matter what anyone says, those butterflies won’t go away.  And that’s a good thing.  That means you will be on your toes, your A game.  To quell the panic, get your classroom ready before you sit down at your desk to prepare your lesson.  Likely you have already done this.  But if you haven’t, get to it.  I could never concentrate on my lessons until my room was ready, all the posters and decorations up, the desks in place, the room ready for the kids to walk in. Now sometimes it isn’t possible, especially if the custodians are waxing the floors the weekend before school starts or you are still waiting on desks or equipment, but get it as ready as you possibly can.
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  • Prepare for your first day.  When I started to panic about what I was going to do, I would slow down, take a breath, and think. All I needed was to know what I was doing the first day.  Once I got the activities in place for that first day or first class period, the rest would fall into place. This may be difficult if your principal expects your lesson plans a week beforehand, but you can always plan that first day and make adjustments for the rest of the week as needed.

  • Make a list of your activities, an agenda of your plan for the day.  I always wrote an agenda on my board or on a Powerpoint slide and had my junior high and high school students write it down in their notebooks or journals. Having the list of activities posted where I and my students could see it ensured that I wouldn’t get ahead of myself or forget what was next, and my students always knew what was coming next.  It also provided a reference for them if they missed class. They could always ask their neighbor what we did in class that day.

  • Resist any urge to socialize your planning time away.  Keep a to-do list in your planner or on a tablet on your desk and use your planning period to be productive. Trust me, you will be glad you did.  You can socialize during lunch!
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  • Seek out a positive, experienced teacher to be your mentor.  You don’t have to ask them to be your mentor.  Just be around them when you can and soak up their energy, enthusiasm, and ideas.  Negative people will do nothing for your attitude or your career; in fact, they will color your perception of yourself as a teacher and the kids as your students.  Do not allow negative people to bring you down!  You chose your profession because you wanted to be a positive influence on young lives. Hang with positive people!
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  • Whining is NOT an option.  If you fail, and we all do, reflect on what you did, how you prepared or didn’t, and learn from your mistakes.  Teachers must be flexible.  If you planned a test on the same day the principals planned a disaster drill, roll with it.  No one will benefit from your complaining or whining and what’s more, you will only bring yourself and others down.

  • And finally, always have a Plan B. Administrators do plan drills without telling you, you will get called to meetings during class, your frogs for dissecting won’t arrive on time, the network will break down, your hour and a half lesson will be done in thirty minutes. Have an alternate lesson or activity you can pull out of your hat at a moment’s notice.  As you gain more experience, this will be easier, but don’t allow yourself to be totally dependent on Powerpoint lectures and worksheets.  Computers and copy machines break down but the kids will be there anyway.  Ask for ideas from experienced teachers.  You will be surprised at what they will tell you.
You are about to start your career as a teacher!  It will be rewarding, frustrating, time-consuming, nerve-wracking, sad, happy, maddening, full of love, and FAST.  Don’t allow yourself to forget why you became a teacher, and always enjoy and appreciate your students. 

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And let me know if none or all of this applies.  Now put that expensive college education to use and go forth and teach!


XOXO
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teaching

Teacher Tuesday: Another school year gone. . .

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I was at my doctor’s office today getting a bone density screening (yes, I’m that old) and the technician said, “So, you teach?”
Of course I told her I had retired last year, so she congratulated me and proceeded to tell me that she used to be a school teacher and sometimes wanted to go back. 

I could not encourage her!

The noblest profession is fast becoming one of the least desirable.  New teachers are leaving early and seasoned teachers are longing for retirement. 
This medical technician doing my screening told me that her friend, a fifth grade teacher, felt the same way I do.  Teachers are becoming more and more powerless as administrators bow to demanding parents who will not allow their children to experience disappointment, failure, or consequences.
Until parents respect the teaching profession and the teachers’ ability to provide the best education for their children, and allow teachers and administrators to provide the necessary discipline to provide an optimum learning environment, things will continue as they are or get even worse in our public schools.

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Trashing my profession is not my intent, by the way.  I actually miss teaching!  I miss the experience of seeing students take in new information and learn.  I miss the camaraderie between colleagues, and I miss greeting my students as they walk in the door.  I have wonderful memories of my days as a teacher and administrator.  I just hope that those still in the profession will be able to say the same.  
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Summer vacation gives educators a much-needed break and energizes them for the coming school year.  Let’s hope that they will be excited and enthusiastic when they return in August.
I pray that it will once more become a profession I can recommend to others!

XOXO





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Uncategorized

FOLK Magazine 2013 Journal Challenge: The Meaning of Time

Today’s journal prompt from Folk Magazine challenges us to reflect on the meaning of time by thinking about these questions:  What do you spend your time doing?  Is there something you wish you had more time to do?

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Those are loaded questions, aren’t they?  Time is something we seem to take for granted until we realize that we don’t have much left.  The Bible says in Hebrews 9:27 that “it is appointed unto man once to die.”  In other words, there is a time and day for each one of us to die.  Whether or not you believe that, you must agree that we will not, cannot live forever.  As time passes, we age.

There was a time (pardon the play on words) when I thought I had an infinite amount of it to spend.  As a child, adulthood seemed too far away to imagine.  There were pie-in-the-sky dreams of having a husband, two kids, and a two-story house with a picket fence, but the reality seemed eons away.  I could hardly wait to be a teenager, but that, too, seemed years and years away.  

Of course, you know the rest of the story.  Thirteen finally arrived, and before long I was bidding goodbye to my high school friends.  College is another example of a period of time that seemed to be frozen.  Would I ever be done with my studies and start “real life?”

How can that be?  How is it that some periods of your life seem to literally drag by while others seem to fly?  For those of you who have raised children, did you notice that the days sometimes seemed neverending, but now that the kids are grown and gone, the years themselves seemed to fly by?  What is that?

For almost 25 years I spent my time caring for my children as they grew from babies to young adults.  For 30 years I spent my days teaching school and my nights cooking and helping with homework.  The weekends were devoted to the kids’ activities, church, and chores.

Then. . .
…and now

And now all that has passed and I find myself in the years of the “empty nest.”  My husband and I juggle his night work schedule with my daytime schedule.  No longer teaching, I fill my days writing, crafting, junking, and catching up on chores and projects I never seemed to have time for when I worked full time.

For all this, I look back on my life as time well spent.  I look forward to more years, hopefully filled with good health, family, and even more fulfillment.
I can’t really say at this point in my life that I wish I had more time to do anything except maybe see my children more often, but I hope to enjoy grandchildren someday!

I have made the commitment to use my time wisely, not to waste it, and certainly not take it for granted.  With middle age has come an appreciation for the brevity of life.  Several years ago we lost my sister’s husband and children in a tragic truck crash.  My mother is recovering from breast cancer.  A friend’s son just died of cancer.  Another friend’s son was killed last year after stopping to help a stranded motorist on the highway. We are not guaranteed more time than we have right now. You never know when your time may run out.

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Carpe diem!  Seize the day!

XOXO