Sunday, February 15, 2015

Things Teachers Need

I'm sure other teachers can add to this list, but these are the things that make my day happy!

Breath mints.  I still remember a smoking, coffee drinking teacher whose breath knocked me out as a high school student.  I almost always have some kind of mints or gum in a drawer of my desk.  I don't want to be THAT teacher.

Coffee.  (Hence the breath mints.)  I'm not sure how people operate without coffee.  "Never underestimate the power of a highly caffeinated woman."  Whoever said that knew what they were talking about.

School gear.  High school kids in our area appreciate seeing the adults in school, supporting them on game days.  I have old football jerseys, a couple of hoodies, t-shirts that are older than they are, and several neatly monogrammed shirts provided to the staff.  Fortunately, the school colors happen to be a favorite.

Ice water.  Year round.  I have several insulated glasses that don't sweat.  (Current favorite: a Bubba Cup.)  I usually drink two large glasses of ice water a day. Besides being good for me, I'm not sure how my voice/throat would hold up without it.

Glitz Bic pens. They come in a package with about 8 different colors, and I love the way they write.  I now grade in lime green, sky blue, pink, and purple. Just seeing the pens in the drawer of my desk makes me happy.  (I have to confess, I hide them from subs.  I lose more pens and pencils on days of substitutes!) I think these little gems are 88 cents a package.

A computer bag.  I would have said a brief case at one time, but the computer bag works better for me these days.  I had a canvas and leather LL Bean bag that I loved; however, the school switched to macs and my computer no longer fit in my bag.  This year, I made the switch to a Vera Bradley computer bag.  (It was half price, or this teacher never would have spent the money for it.)

The lunch size crock pot.  This was a Christmas gift from my faculty Secret Santa. (Sweet, young former student, now colleague.)  Best.Gift.Ever!!  Leftovers are hot and ready to go by lunchtime.  The inside metal pot is removable for easy cleaning, too.  No more waiting for the microwave in the workroom.

A survival pack for me would also have to include:  dental floss, Shout Wipes, safety pins, bobby pins, and sample sizes of hairspray and Static Guard.

Do I NEED all of these things?  No, but I sure LOVE them!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Student Teacher Woes

I have an amazing young student teacher.  She is professional, informed, and creative.  (She has the Common Core App on her phone, for God's sake!  Who does that?)  She feels more like a colleague than a student teacher.  I bounce ideas off of her.  We look for solutions together.

And then I have to wonder...maybe all (or most) of my former student teachers were like this, but I was too young and sure of myself to pick their brains.  I wonder how many opportunities I have missed.

So, when am I aware that she is the student teacher and I am the teacher?

*When she is finishing one unit and planning for the next one.  It feels a bit overwhelming to her.  Especially, when the unit she is finishing is one that she developed in college with oodles of time to research, submit it, and rework it.
    I remember this feeling.  Heck, I still feel this way from time to time! So, we are working on the next unit together. She will see that, though it is work, it can be done. (It will drive you crazy, but it can be done.)

*As she is grading papers. The light slowly dawns on her that about 10% of the students plagiarized.  It was like watching air escape from a balloon.  She was so disappointed. Academic dishonesty will be a discussion on this blog for another day, but she and I came up with a plan for this to be a teaching moment.  And as she is teaching them, I am teaching her.
    You can't teach these things from a book. Sometimes, students will break your heart, but you can't let them break your spirit. And you can't let them cheat themselves out of learning the important things: they have far too much ability to simply copy someone else.

One other thing I hope she is learning:

There's always a critic.  It might be the kid who complains about the assignment you love, the colleague who shares a negative comment they overheard about your class, or an administrator who doubts what you are doing or suggests that what you are doing is not enough.  Some weeks, the critics are all you hear.  The goal is not to let yourself become the critic.  And that is always easier said than done.
     Most of us are hard enough on ourselves without the words of the critics.  But, we have to remember to listen carefully.  There are students who show their appreciation in quiet ways, colleagues who copy an assignment or technique (no better flattery than imitation), and an administrator who asks us to do some work that few others will try.  Their words might not speak their praise, but frequently their actions do.

I remember how tough, but also how darn much fun, student teaching was.  And I'm remembering it all over again, watching a cute little redhead as she finds her way. I am fortunate to be watching excellence in action.  I'm pretty sure the future of education will be safe in her hands.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Standards Based Grading Information Sheet For Parents

Parent/Teacher conferences are coming up.  They will be my first since switching to Standards Based Grading.  In my mind, I see myself repeating the same information over and over in an attempt to explain Standards Based Grading. My hope is that they will hit the math department first. I would be happy to let our math teachers explain it.

In case that doesn't happen, I decided to put together an information sheet for parents.

I spent the weekend trying to condense the information to the essentials.  Here is what I came up with:

I will run it by my colleagues, and then I think I will copy it for my students and see what they think.

Thank you,

Oh, and there is a good chance that our HS Graphics Design department will get the job of making this look much more professional. (This will give them an idea of what I would like it to look like.)  I will have them make the copies, too.  My colleagues will probably appreciate me not using all of the color toner in the copier.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Saturday Morning Thoughts

"Know your worth."  That thought has been going through my mind all week.  From the top down, teachers are often reminded of our worth both collectively and individually.

Our students let us know what they think on a daily basis. Sometimes their parents share their opinions.  Our bosses evaluate our efforts, and then our politicians and elected officials weigh in on the matter.  Finally, the media puts in their two cents.  And of course, we get the monthly reminder in the form of a paycheck.

We know the work that we do is valuable. We know the amount of time we give to this profession is in direct proportion to our passion. But then a message, intended or not, comes through loud and clear: your work is not valuable and not a priority.

I stop. I reevaluate. I doubt. I try to remember to look up.  I breathe.

What am I worth?  This morning, I am worth a 2nd cup of coffee.  Well, at least I think I am...

Our State has been busy lately, and some weeks it is tough to be a teacher.  This would be one of those.