Posted in Miscellaneous

Becoming a Superhero Teacher

ImageEducation is the ticket to a better life. Each morning, parents send their children to school, put their children’s futures in teachers’ hands, and hope that ticket takes their children to higher roads and better places.

Many public schools excel at preparing their students for their futures, but what happens when schools do not produce expected results and are instead severely underperforming? The 2010 documentary Waiting for “Superman,” directed by Davis Guggenheim, discusses this topic in depth by following several students who currently attend or will attend severely underperforming schools. The title is based on an interview with education reformer Geoffrey Canada, where he recounts how his mother told him as a child that Superman wasn’t real, and he was frightened because there was no one coming to save him. Dr. Robert Balfanz of Johns Hopkins University terms such schools “dropout factories.” Dropout factories are public high schools where more than 40% of students do not graduate on time. Failing elementary and middle schools feed their poorly prepared students into their local high schools, which end up failing too. These institutions of learning, which are meant to empower communities with the ability to live a successful life, instead leave them damaged and short-sighted. Children who had so much potential are left discouraged and broken. They don’t have hope for their future, they don’t have goals to reach any more, and they’ve just about given up on themselves.

Many parents wish to avoid these failing public schools and place their children in a school that will benefit them and meet their needs. Even if this option exists, however, getting into better performing schools is difficult. These schools – often private schools – have tuition fees low-income families are unable to afford. That, or the schools have more applicants than available openings.  

My point in bringing up this topic is not to overwhelm or discourage, but rather to discuss an important question: What can we as future teachers do to help fix these problems in our country’s education? In order for these failing schools to improve, we need better teachers – teachers who are willing to face these challenges and work in areas where public schools are really struggling, like D.C., New York City, or Houston. Whether or not you end up teaching in a “dropout factory” or in a relatively good school, there will always be a need for good teachers who help struggling students

According to GreatSchools, a national non-profit organization that provides ratings of local schools for parents, “the single most important factor determining the quality of the education a child receives is the quality of his teacher.” The first step as a teacher to improving the state of U.S. public education system should be becoming the best teacher you possibly can be. If you can provide a quality education for the children you teach, that’s one large step in the right direction.

So what exactly do good teachers do? Here are some ideas:
– Set high expectations for ALL students
– Have clear, written-out objectives
– Be prepared and organized
– Engage students and get them to look at issues in a variety of ways
– Form strong relationships with their students and show that they care about them as people
(To read more about these ideas, visit this link)

Change starts with us. If we want students to receive a quality education, we need to be quality educators. We can use the education we’re blessed to receive right now to help students achieve that same dream.

I’d really love to start a discussion on this topic. Please feel free to share your ideas of what being a good teacher really means.

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Posted in Miscellaneous

The Best Year Yet

I started school today.

Ok, so I didn’t start school, but I was present at the “opening ceremonies” of a nearby private school. They started with a flag raising, the pledge of allegiance, and then shot off a cannon to begin the start of a new semester and what the principal assured would be the best year yet.

I’ve heard this speech before from principals and teachers, but who’s there to give Imagethe teachers a pep talk about the new year? Is there anyone telling teachers that they, too, can do great things if they put in a little bit of effort? While teachers may be out there giving helpful hints to their students on how to succeed, here are some pointers to help teachers start their school year out on the best foot, as well.

  • Set up your own environment. I’ll be the first to say that I am not a decorator, but it’s important to make your space your own. You don’t want to spend all day teaching in a boring, uninteresting room, and your students don’t either. Liven the place up with posters or photographs to make your work environment more welcoming.

  • Get into good habits early. I know that if I don’t start the year by deliberately following good habits, I get halfway into the school year before realizing I’m not nearly as effective as I could have been otherwise. Begin good habits early.

  • Learn the students’ names quickly. If you’re a secondary education major like myself, you know that you could have 100 or more students. While memorizing all of their names definitely seems overwhelming, remember how important it is for each student to feel a part of your class. Take your time, but definitely make an effort to learn students’ names quickly to establish a safe place for all of them.

  • Set expectations. If you explain your expectations to your students from the first day, there will be no room for misunderstanding. If behavioral problems arise, you can point back to the guidelines you had set up from the beginning. Students need structure, and providing it from the beginning is a great way to create order in your classroom.

  • Get excited. Enthusiasm is contagious! Tell your students all about the exciting new things they’ll be learning throughout the year. No one is going to get them more excited about what they’ll be learning than you, so take some time to help them realize that it’s going to be a great year. Because with a little bit of preparation, it will be the best year yet.

How do you prepare yourself for the first few days of school?

Posted in Miscellaneous

Building a Classroom Library

In all of my classes, I have learned the importance of making literacy a focus in the classroom. I have learned about how vital a classroom library is because it shows students that reading is valued in your classroom. However, how can a new teacher not break the bank trying to build a class library? As I have pondered starting my future classroom, I have been curious about this and decided to research what people were saying on the Internet about where to start buying and accumulating books for the classroom library. Below I have listed a few resources.

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  • www.paperbackswap.com: This website allows you to swap books with others by giving you credits to use when someone buys from you.

  • www.amazon.com: There are so many one cent books on Amazon, but you have to pay the $4 for shipping. However, if there is a specific book you are looking for, I think Amazon is a great resource!

  • Garage/yard sales: For me, these can go either way. Sometimes you wake up early to go but find  nothing of value. On the other hand, if you’re lucky they are great places to find some real treasures.

  • Thrift stores: Again, thrift stores, like yard sales, are like shopping in the unknown. But, they might be worth going to every once in awhile to see if they have anything you want.

  • www.bookcloseouts.com: This website is great because they have a lot of ways you can search for the books you want. They even have a “less than a dollar” category.

  • http://clubs.scholastic.com/about/index.shtml: I am still not super familiar with how Scholastic works but from what I can gather, each book purchased helps the teacher earn points which they can use in future purchases towards more books. They also have $1 books.

  • Festivals: My mother-in-law just volunteered at a festival where they were selling new books for $1! So, it is always good to look out for any local events that might have deals.

I am sure there are many more resources out there but this is what I could find through my research that I felt had the best deals! A classroom library seems like a staple in modern classrooms so hopefully these resources can help new and experienced teachers build their library!
Do you know of any other resources teachers can use as they build their classroom library?

– Mandy Dimmick

Posted in Miscellaneous

5 Tips for Working with Students with Autism

It is more than likely that students with disabilities will be in your classroom because of the recent trend towards inclusion.  At first, that can sound kind of intimidating.  But, as Hellen Keller once said, “Knowledge is love and light and vision.”  So as you learn more, you can grow to love these students and then have a vision of how they can be successful in your classroom (and how you can be successful in your classroom!).

In this blog post, I have included 5 simple tips for success if you have students with autism in your classroom:

5. Don’t use a lot of idioms.  If you do, explain them.

A lot of individuals with autism take things quite literally.  For example, if you say, “Man, it’s raining cats and dogs out there!”, your student might look very confused and say, “But I didn’t see any animals outside.”

Imagine the confusion that might create if you used an idiom while teaching a new concept!

But, if you teach your students what the idiom means (in this case, that its raining a lot), then it can be a very useful tool in your classroom.

4. Have a set routine and stick to it!

A lot of individuals with autism have anxiety about the unexpected.  So, if you set specific routines in your class, it helps lessen that anxiety. That means the student with autism can focus more on learning.

Routine can include everything from what you expect students to do when they first come in the room, testing procedures (open book or not, etc.), always having art on Friday, if students can put away their stuff before the bell rings, having math at a particular time each day, and more!

3. Give plenty of warning before something unexpected happens.

Even with the best routines and procedures in place, something unexpected or out of the norm will happen.  Everything from fire drills, assemblies, to substitute teachers.  As you can imagine, these differences can cause a lot of anxiety for people with autism.

Make sure you give them plenty of warning beforehand.  If you know that there’s an assembly the next week, start telling them about it the week before (or a couple of days before, or the day before. The amount of notice needed totally depends on each student).  That way, it’s expected and causes less anxiety.

Obviously, you can’t always give a warning before something unexpected happens.  Since that’s the case, it’s time for suggestion #2.

2. Ask the special education teacher for specific questions.

If specific questions about your student come up, why not ask the person who has specialized in teaching students with disabilities?  They want to see both you and the student succeed.

Working with the special education teacher, you can come up with possible solutions for behavior management, how to lower anxiety when the unexpected happens, and other situations specific to your student, all while maintaining confidentiality.

 

1. Expect the best.

After all, “you can’t rise to low expectations”.