Tag Archives: teacher education

In Response…

Right now, there’s a post floating around Facebook and Twitter that caught my attention. It’s a piece by Dennis Hong of Musings on Life and Love about teaching and the view that people who don’t teach have of teachers and their jobs. It’s called The Hardest Job Everyone Thinks They Can Do. I appreciated the post because when people hear what I do, they always mention how great it must be to have summers off or to be able to leave at 3 everyday (this is such a myth, by the way).

I scanned through the comments on the post, and one got me thinking. The commenter suggested that teachers don’t need advanced degrees to be able to teach because teaching is intuitive and most of what needs to be learned about teaching can be learned in a two-week crash course. There’s a point the writer had me thinking about– whether it was intended or not: so much of teaching comes from within: the willingness to understand, the mindfulness, the choice to put in the time, etc. But where I disagree with the comment is the suggestion there is no need for an in-depth understanding developing brains and emotional development.  The words I speak to children and lessons I teach are formed by my background knowledge learned in graduate school, through working with other professionals, and by the constant research I do on my own; all of these pieces come together, in addition to my classroom experiences, to drive my instruction.

As a teacher, I spend my days (and nights and weekends) figuring out the children I work with, finding creative ways to reach them, reading about new ways of teaching, and working on materials to engage and motivate them; they’re walking puzzles to be solved. Good teachers work so hard to see the child’s perspective, to reflect what might be hard for that child, and to apply their knowledge of child development to form lessons that teach the skills children need. The suggestion that all those skills could be packed into two weeks is a bit of a stretch.

Someone once told me that it takes 10,000 hours to be a master of a craft. I have devoted more than that to teaching when I add up the planning, reading, reflecting, professional development, and classroom hours accumulated over the last seven years, and I feel that I am nowhere close to being a master. The art of teaching well requires constant mindfulness and willingness to accept and change. There are a million ways to make learning better, and that’s a teacher’s quest.

Related: Teacher Rant

Reblog: To Block or Not To Block

This is a great post– The third option makes so much sense, but it does require teachers to let go of control and help children to problem-solve on their own. This is hard for so many teachers!

eChalk Talk

LAUSD made headlines last month when hundreds of their students figured out how to unlock their new iPads so they could get to YouTube and Facebook.  That got us thinking—should schools try to block these and other popular sites on school devices and networks? And is it even possible?

First, let’s tackle possible. Google “YouTube in school,” and you’ll find dozens of sites like this one with step-by-step instructions for bypassing all of your school security protocols. Chances are, your students have found this, too.

But even if your IT team can stay ahead of your young hackers, should you even try? A quick search of YouTube finds high-quality animations of the electron-transport chain, a clip of Mark Antony’s speech from Julius Caesar, and hundreds of math tutorials—all for free. When schools put an indiscriminant block on sites like YouTube, they are banishing all of this…

View original post 354 more words

The Power of Relationships

As humans, most of us understand the importance of building relationships with each other. Reflect a minute on how much harder you work for the people close to you who understand and care about you– the people who appreciate and admire your strengths and recognize your weaknesses as areas to grow. As teachers, we spend time building relationships with coworkers and children in order to make the more challenging times in the day run a little smoother. Beyond the in-school relationships, there are the relationships with the families, which can sometimes feel like the last thing on your mind when you’re first teaching (until conferences, that is). Creating a relationship with what’s best for the child in mind is critical, especially in the field of special education; it opens you up to be a team with families to problem-solve what will work best for the child.

I can remember in graduate school when a professor explained that sending home positive notes about children is an important strategy for communication with families– to always start out on a positive note. I took this and made it a to-do for myself as a teacher. Reflecting about it in terms of the whole picture has led me to what I think is a better way of framing this strategy and advice:

As a teacher, you are a professional who works with the child and the family to help the child be more successful in the world. In order to make the most powerful impact, there needs to be a relationship with the family– not just a tally of triumphs and challenges communicated to the family. Both the positive and more challenging notes should be about who the child is– not just what the child did. Highlighting your understanding of the child is what will build your relationship with the family; it needs to be thoughtful and sincere.

The moments you live for when you teach– the triumphs– when feelings are expressed with words, concepts are understood, or a splash of independence comes out, those are the moments that families live for too. Being realistic and compassionate will give those moments the celebration they deserve.

 

On a connected note: Click here

 

A Tech Field Trip

My new position has its limitations, mainly time! I’m finding myself playing tech integrator, tech support and troubleshooting, and mentor to new teachers– just to name a few. The value of bouncing ideas off another person is something that is tough to replicate without the face-to-face contact and hands on experience– being in my own world of managing and implementing tech has been hard, even with the support of the online community. This week, I went to visit a school to observe the work they do with tech integration. Being there was better than all the posts I could ever read.

I got to see their work in action– not just the integration itself– the backbone to the integration: systems management, policy implementation, and a structure to model after. Being able to pick and choose what I wanted to take away for the program being developed at my school was so valuable.

First, I learned not to use Apple Configurator to manage the devices, as it’s not a well developed program for the purpose of education. I found out about Meraki– a free, web-based mobile device management system. It keeps everything so organized and makes it really easy to track devices and purchases. I began playing around with it, and it does everything I need it to do– even things I didn’t realize I’d need! Click here for a little video explanation.

After the visit, I feel ready to dive deep into the roll-out of the iPads. As excited as I am to see these devices in my school, I wonder about how they could be better, more educationally focused, and more easily shared. I’ll save that tangent for another post.

Red and Green Moments

Teachers are expected to notice everything that’s going well as well as calm what isn’t going so well. In graduate school, I was presented with a ton of theory about behavior management or classroom management, but I never felt I truly understood how to achieve it before I became a full-time teacher.  I was warned about how easy it is to constantly correct and redirect students and how important reinforcing positive behaviors is. The idea behind positive reinforcement is so logical… but how do I do it without making myself crazy? Without providing a practical way to manage a classroom of different personalities, I was sent off into the world of being a teacher. The way it’s presented in graduate school is that if teachers constantly reinforce positive behavior, then they won’t feel frustrated, annoyed, confused, or have any kind of negative feeling– and if you do have those feelings, then you must not be doing it right. Trying to verbally praise every child for every positive moment is nearly impossible, unless that is your only duty. So, here’s my story of how I came to discover the idea of green and red moments in my classroom.

First, I had a card system with four levels (green, yellow, orange, red). Each level had a meaning, and each child started off with green each day. Green meant best behavior, yellow meant first warning, orange meant second warning, and red meant a phone call home or the principal’s office. We would try to remember to switch it back to green if the day got turned around– not surprisingly, that never really happened. What this system missed was the times between the hard times when children were kind to each other or made an effort to try something that might be particularly hard. Worst of all, the children became color-coded, the behaviors escalated, and there was no room to fully understand the child or the root of the behavior. Obviously, it needed to be tossed– it needed a replacement.

Using what I have learned from the wonderful children, speech pathologists, social workers, occupational therapists, and other professionals I have worked with, my co-teacher and I developed a green moments versus red moments system.

How we presented it:

In the beginning of the year, there was a lesson where we taught the children the definitions of red and green moments. A red moment is a negative thought about a peer or a negative behavior that might upset someone– all people think these thoughts all the time, but we don’t say them out loud. A green moment is something said or done that makes someone feel great. Once the categories were taught, students wrote down red moments and green moments. We walked around the classroom with the large red construction paper and had the children place their red moments inside. We folded it in half like a hamburger, and each child stapled the paper closed. We recognized that the thoughts are there, and they need to be talked about– just not to the whole group. We gave them options like quietly talking to a teacher or talking about their red moments during private social work or speech appointments. The green moments are, of course, out in the open and on display.

Red and Green Moments

How to maintain it:

This year, my co-teacher and I decided to add another layer… Now, the children have individual charts so they can visualize the green moments they dish out all the time. The classroom community is quite amazing and they love giving each other green moments.

Individual Green Moments Chart

I’ve gone through a few behavior systems in my years of teaching, and I feel I’ve found the best one yet. Even so, it gets tweaked a little each year. This is a simple solution to reinforcing positive behaviors in class and putting the power in the child’s hands. Each year, it has changed slightly to make it more concrete, more accessible, and more exciting for the children in the class. To be completely honest, it also makes my job so much easier– I hope that writing about this will be helpful to someone else!