Posted in Miscellaneous

Why I Don’t Keep Secrets From My Students

By: Jessica Lyon

Recently I had someone ask me, “Why does your classroom feel so different?” I asked her what she meant, assuming she was probably talking about my lack of organization, or the crazy 80s color scheme my school decided to use. She proceeded to tell me that the learning environment just felt different. I honestly couldn’t come up with an answer. After she asked me a few questions and was getting ready to leave, I finally realized what was she was referring to.

It’s because my students know the “why” of everything we do and learn. Very quickly into the beginning of the year, I got easily frustrated with my students’ “line behavior”. They wouldn’t line up quietly, they talked down the hallway, and they couldn’t stay in straight lines, despite my constant efforts to keep them that way. I was mortified being the intern who couldn’t walk her 30 students down the hallway. My mentor asked me one day why I cared so much about my students walking in the hallway quietly. I explained to her that I was embarrassed. We talked about strategies and ideas, but then an idea dawned on me. That afternoon, I sat my students down and asked “Why do we need to walk quietly in the hallway?” My students began by saying things like “because it’s a school rule” or “because you told us to”. Then I pushed their thinking more by asking, “But why do I care if you walk in the hallway quietly?” They were stumped. So then I asked, “Well, imagine you’re taking a test, and a really noisy class comes walking down the hallway. What are you thinking about? Are you going to do well on your test?” This sparked a conversation about how it was respectful and polite to walk quietly in the hallway. They began realizing the impact that their behavior had on me. They realized that I looked like a “bad teacher” because I couldn’t keep my class quiet in the hallways. From that day on, all I’ve had to ask them is to show me their hallway behavior. For each student their specific behavior is different, but it is quiet. If a student forgets the rules, I simply have to stop them and remind them, and the problem goes away.

I use this strategy in all my discipline management. If a child is whistling during a test, I ask them to stop because it is distracting others. When a student says something mean to another student, I ask them how they would feel if someone said that to them. When someone steals something off my desk, I explain how it hurt my feelings and how it stinks that I don’t have that item anymore. My students now have a reason to obey and follow rules.

The easiest way to implement this strategy as a first year teacher is to use “I” messages. I taught my students this strategy at the beginning of the year, and we use it frequently to express our feelings. The lesson was taken directly from the Prevention Dimensions Program. The framework for the message is to say “I feel… (insert feeling here) when… (insert behavior) because… (why did that bother you?) and I need… (suggest what the offender could to do to remedy the problem).”

Here are two examples from the past months:

“Class, I feel like I’m a boring teacher when you don’t look at me when I’m teaching. This is because when people don’t look at me when I’m talking, it seems like they aren’t interested. I really need you to look at me so I know you’re listening.”

“Chris, I feel hurt when you play rough with me because it hurts my stomach. I would like to play another game.”

Overall, I’ve noticed that my students respond to people who are real. They know when you aren’t invested in a lesson because something is on your mind. They know when you are thinking something you are required to do is ridiculous. They know when you love the topic and want them to love it too. Be upfront and honest with your students so they trust you and know that everything that comes out of your mouth is worth their time.

Honesty is always the best policy. I want my students to leave with more knowledge and truth than they had before (see quote above).

*Disclaimer: I am NOT saying this has solved all my behavior problems. This method has simply prevented a lot of behaviors so I don’t have to intervene later.

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Posted in Elementary Education Preparation, Lesson Plans

Be Prepared

If I have learned anything from the past while of teaching, it is to be prepared. A lot can happen in a school day and you need to be prepared to handle it all. The inspiration for this blog post is this past school week. All in the past week, three unexpected events happened, none of which I was prepared for. So let this be a warning, think about these things BEFORE the school year.

Event #1: Sick Student

It was early Tuesday morning and I had just finished my “Class, it is flu season” speech on leaving the room if they were going to throw up. I looked over to see one of my students quickly cover his mouth and then barf all over the rug. Keep in mind he was surrounded by 30 other students. I went into panic mode. Where could I even start? After this event, I have a few simple steps to successfully handle this situation.

Step 1: Move the class away from the area with a task to do (like silent reading at their desks).

Step 2: Comfort the sick child. It doesn’t really matter that you get them the trash can, at this point the custodian will have to come anyways. Let them finish.

Step 3: Grab the trash can and escort the sick student down to the office. Alert them of the spill and have the custodian paged. Also have the sick child call home.

Step 4: Take your students’ minds off of it. I sent my students down for a bathroom/ drink break. Just removing them from the situation helps them not to get sick thinking about it.

Step 5: Move on as if nothing has happened and be aware that the custodian will interrupt class to clean things up.

 

Event #2: Emergency Substitute Plans

In the event of all of my students getting sick, I realized I had no “emergency substitute plans” for the times when I might need them. Make them generic, easy to follow, and have them in an accessible spot. This will alleviate SO much stress if you have to leave early or can’t come one day. Just tell your team where your plans are and rest easy.

 

Event #3: Inside Recess

Growing up in Utah, you would have thought I would have a plan for this but today came, and I wasn’t ready. One of my team members gave me the idea to just put a movie on. This helps with so many aspects. I wasn’t a fan of having the students play games in the classroom, nor did I want to have to entertain them during my lunch break, so this was the perfect alternative. One of the recess aides popped into to check on my class during lunch, and he turned to me and said “Smart teacher. You’ve got this figured out!” My advice is this: Have a 45-60 min. movie ready for inside recesses. This way you can start it one recess, and if the other recess is inside as well, you can watch the rest then. This way you can get your much needed break and the kids aren’t running around unsupervised.

 

All this has caused me to think back to what a veteran teacher said to me when I first started teaching. He stopped me in the faculty room and asked if I was ready for the first day. I told him I didn’t think I’d ever be ready. He smiled and said, “If there’s anything I’ve learned in 30 years of teaching, it is that no matter how long you teach, you will never feel ready.”

Truer words have never been said.

Posted in Miscellaneous

The Reason I Teach

By: Jessica Lyon

Since it is Christmastime and the air is filled with cheer, I thought I’d post a cheery update! We talk about how there are reasons for the season of Christmastime, so I thought I’d share the reason for my season of teaching!

The reason I teach: the students. That is the only reason! I was talking to one of my students and she said, “I hate school and I hate teachers. Because teachers hate kids.” I couldn’t help myself from chuckling and saying, “Do you really think I’d be a teacher if I hated kids?” But really, I teach because I love the students!

My principal recently challenged me to plan something into each day that I love doing with my students, just for 15-20 minutes. I can’t tell you how much my love has grown for my students and how happy I am to see those 31 kids every day!

Just so you know a bit of the joy I feel daily, I thought I’d share some of my favorite kid-isms I’ve heard and seen over the past four months. Hopefully this will remind you of the reason you chose to be an educator. 🙂

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My students were working on their Christmas art projects this week. One of my students looks up from his work and says,

“Mrs. Lyon—you’re the man!”

“Um… don’t you mean woman? I’m a girl. So shouldn’t I be the woman?”

“Nope, you’re the man.”

“But that doesn’t make sense…why can’t I be the woman?”

“Because if you were the woman, that just means you are a girl. If you are the man, that means you’re like the best ever.”

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“Mrs. Lyon, can I tell you a joke?”

“Sure, bud!”

“Well, maybe I shouldn’t tell you. It’s kinda inappropriate.”

“Oh well, then maybe you shouldn’t…”

“It’s just about toilet paper! I’ll just tell you, why did the toilet paper roll down the hill?”

“I don’t know… why?”

“To get to the bottom!! hahahahaha get it?! (points to his bum) BOTTOM, eh? eh?”

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Yesterday, I was eating lunch with my “Lucky Lunch Friend” and out of nowhere he says, “I’ve got a crush on someone in this class.” He tells me who it is, then I compliment him on how sneaky he is about it. We move on and then a little later he says, “I’m reading ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid,’ and it has some great tips on how to get a girl to like you.” He proceeds to tell me that his first tip is “act like you’re not available.” I asked him what the rest were, but he said he hadn’t finished the book. This morning, he walked up and handed me this…

(My personal fave is the last one ;))

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I was telling my class to settle down. I said I was getting tired of having to yell over them. One of my kids raised his hand and said, “It’s like you’re the queen and we’re the rebels.”

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My kids got really loud today when they were getting ready to go, so I told them in a stern voice to go back to their desks and sit down. One student said to another, “Uh-oh, I think we woke up the mean teacher.”

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The nurse told me she was going to come in to do a head check (lice check). The nurse just comes around with little sticks and pushes back their hair to check for lice. Here are a few of the comments:

“Do I have lace?”

“If I have lace, does that mean I have to shave my head?”

*cough* “Ahh!! She has lice!!!” “Lice doesn’t make you cough.”

“What if I have lice, what are you going to do?”

“I haven’t washed my hair in three days. I probably have lice.”

“Ooh that stick feels funny.”

“I wish I had four arms. Two to do my homework, and two to rub my head. Now that would be nice…”

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One of my students got a blister on his hand and it popped today. He came up to me with the most adorable concerned face and could barely get his words out, “Mrs. Lyon, I hurt my hand. I pulled some skin off… and now… now you can see my MUSCLE!!” I calmly told him it was just his skin. “But Mrs. Lyon! It is PINK like my MUSCLES and it STINGS!!”

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If you can’t see how rewarding (and entertaining) teaching is, you need to get your eyes checked! Or just look at the grin on my face during a carnival!

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Happy last few weeks of school and teaching. And happy holidays!

Posted in Elementary Education Preparation, Miscellaneous

Three Tips That Have Bettered My Teaching Experience

I’m not very experienced as a teacher (as I constantly am reminded), but I have found that there are a few things that have helped me a lot more. Here is a list of three things that I have found to make my teaching experience a better one for all involved:

  1. Don’t forget that YOU still exist outside of being a teacher.

My husband teases me constantly on this one. He always will refer to me as “Mrs. Lyon” and just roll his eyes. I didn’t get what he was saying until a week or so ago. I really had lost myself in teaching; I didn’t do anything but prepare to teach and teach! Being a teacher is exhausting in itself, so make sure you take time for yourself. A few things I’ve done to remember to take care of myself are:

  • Set a time frame to get to school and come home. For example: I’ve decided I would like to be at the school by 7:30 a.m. and leave the school no later than 5:00 p.m.. Obviously there are (many) exceptions, but it helps me to not lose myself.
  • Find a hobby and do it. Mine consist of word searches, Dr. Phil, crossword puzzles, and cooking. I’ve recently tried yoga as well. I feel like I’ve had to get to know myself a lot better in order to have the energy to keep going.
  • Go to bed early. I NEVER went to bed before 11 p.m. before I became a teacher. Now if I’m not in bed before around 10 p.m., I’m exhausted the next day.
  • Eat healthy. Be healthy. Realize that your kids are counting on you to stay healthy so you can be there every day!
  1. Lucky Lunch Friend

This was my genius idea last week and my kids have LOVED it so far. I pick one person each day to eat lunch with me. The kids love the one-on-one time with the teacher, I get to know my students better, and I don’t have to eat alone. It’s a win on all sides!! A lot of my students struggle with some tough home situations, so this is my way of giving them attention that they may not get at home. I’ve also heard that even giving 2 minutes of attention to a child with a behavior issue will increase their positive behavior. I’ve noticed that in my classroom. Kids respond to a teacher they personally know.

*Keep in mind that it is important to be a PROFESSIONAL, not just a friend 😉

  1. The Clean Up Games

The Clean Up Games in my classroom take about 10 minutes, make our classroom neat and tidy for me, and let students have fun by helping! The Clean Up Games currently has four rounds. Every round has a winner who earns tickets (our reward system). I usually give the kids 2-3 minutes for each round. In order to win the round, you have to be sitting quietly in your desk when I count down to zero.

Round 1: Straightest Desks

I have a student in my class to whom I have given the job of desk monitor. He makes sure that all the desks are straight and cleared off at the end of the day. My kids’ desks slide like CRAZY throughout the day, so getting them back into place once a day helps a lot. I’ve also noticed that this game encourages students to self-monitor during the day.

Round 2: Secret Scrap

I choose a piece (or three or ten) of trash and award tickets to the students who pick them up. But let’s be honest, I pick the kids that are working the hardest to clean up and then tell them they found the scrap.

Round 3: What’s Bugging Mrs. Lyon?

I find something in the room that is “bugging me” like how messy the library is, or that some crayons tipped over on the floor, or that there is a lot of trash that didn’t quite make it into the trash can, and then ask the kids to find it and fix it. The winner earns tickets.

Round 4: Magic Number

The students that won Round 3 and 4 go out in the hallway and pick a number between 1-28 (the number of students that I have minus themselves). When they come back in, I randomly number my students off to get ready to go home for the day. Say the number is 16. My two winners get to watch the magic number person (the child who was given number 16) to make sure they get their backpack, coat, lunchbox, stack their chair, and sit quietly on the rug in order to win. Once everyone is on the rug, my two watchers (previous winners) get to award tickets to the person with the magic number. The best part is they don’t know if they are being “watched” or not until the end, so all my kids don’t forget things any more!! Then they are all sitting quietly and I can do a read aloud before it is time to go.

These tips have only come to me after many trials and many more errors. It’s taken me a long time to figure these out, so hopefully these will help you in managing your own classroom!