Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Teaching Over 40 Years!!!! Another Awesome Teacher: AH

AH has been teaching for over 40 years!

Yes...You heard me correctly...Over 40 years!

She was a social studies teacher who now works with ESOL students.
She has taught in the same community for the whole time and only one year was she not at the same school.

What is sooooo amazing about AH is that she never loses her focus on the needs of the kids.

She has spent her career helping kids achieve their dreams.

Over her many years she has learned how to push them to do more. She has learned to push them to want more. She has pushed them to not make excuses! She has pushed them to want to dream about tomorrow.

She is a master teacher who knows that  nothing is impossible.



How about you?

In this world of political talk...It is easy to want to give up.
According to so many...teaching is easy...(it is ok to roll your eyes...)
AH would tell you it is exhausting...especially working with kids who are as many as 5 years behind in all academic development...

Yet, AH has found the elixir to keep going...and keep focused on the kids...
It is...after all...just about them...

Stay the distance...
There is nothing better than helping a child understand and learn...

Wow!! It is soooooo cool when you know that light bulb comes on and they go...I got this!!!

If you are a high school teacher, the best thing is to watch them walk across the stage and receive their diploma. (Nothing better!)

Take time to re-energize...AH has done so for her 40+ years... I'll bet you can...
Enjoy helping the kids...of all ages learn and understand...

Kudos to you!
You are teachers!
You are DREAM MAKERS!!!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Awesome Teachers! MR (His initials...)

Lets talk about one of my favorite colleagues...
He is a former middle school and now high school band director.



I have personally seen him rebuild two totally different and separate programs. How?

He believes that every child matters! 

This is obvious in the way that he gives time to all kids...
He spends time pushing those who already have the skills and making musicians out of those who have minimal skills...

He has command of his content...

He is personable..
He makes his students laugh...
He is willing to laugh at himself...
He creates positive bonds...
The kids want to do for him...

He doesn't listen to those who say something is impossible...He knows that it is not...

MR (his initials not mister)...is an amazing educator...

His secret...

He believes in all kids' capacity to learn!

When times are tough...when the demands seem overwhelming...
Remember that you are here for the kids and you will persevere.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Pre-Tests. Graded? Arrggghh!

Please tell me you didn't grade the pretests! Did you actually put that grade in the computer?!


Pretests are meant for gathering information that you will use to adjust your instruction. Often times you will discover that the students know very little or that you have a few who have some command of specific information from your course. Thus, adjusting the instruction so that they are not bored is good and deciding what needs to be addressed first is yet another aspect of the strategy. Someone once told me, "But if I don't grade them they won't take them seriously!" Ouch! I would suggest that you read Daniel Pink's book, Drive. It is about what motivates people. You can also catch him on youtube for a short synopsis.

How can we justify a grade on information that you have not taught...? Are you grading their memory? Previous teachers? Their parents? Wow!

If you are concerned about them taking it seriously...give them points on the next exam for completing the pretest. Say that you will earn 10 points or get out of homework free pass or a trip to the school store or a go to the head of the lunch line pass (work that out with the school)...soooo many options...use positive incentive not negative...

Pretests should not be graded and the grade placed in the grade book as a test, quiz, classwork, homework or whatever category of grade you have...Try reading Carol Dweck's book called MindSet. The closed and the growth...The student who gets a 30 on the pretest may just likely shut down because now she has a grade that may be impossible to overcome.

Please stop doing this...


Monday, September 9, 2013

My Teacher, My Superhero

If you read my post, One Secret to Great Teaching, I talked about getting a chance to be taught by Yoda. She inspired me, challenged me, knew me, and cared about my success. She knew my name and made me want to learn. She believed in me.

Have you ever stopped to think about your own heroes?


I am a big fan of comic book super heroes. My favorite is Spider-Man. But when I stop to think about the real heroes in my life, I have to think about teams of super heroes like the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, and The Avengers. My team of super heroes is comprised of several different personalities  from my parents to my wife to my Army basic training drill sergeant to my senior English teacher (Yoda) and an assortment of others. What they all have in common is that they believed in me.

Do you have that group of super heroes in your past or present? Did they take the time to assist you, guide you, refocus you when you were lost, and pick you up when you were down? Did they believe in you? Did you get that extra strength to overcome adversity or give so much more effort because you had their support?

One of my super heroes I did not like. She also was one of my teachers. She and I were from different planets. She seemed to not like the military. I was focused on becoming a soldier. I enjoyed debating her about social issues. I could find any number of reasons to disagree with her. I could not wait to get out of her class.

One day, when I was telling a story about Yoda, my teacher, I was asked about my junior English teacher. I started to tell all of the reasons why I didn't like her and then a thought came to me...one that had never occurred to me before (This is called an epiphany.)...in order to be in Yoda's class you had to be recommended, your junior English teacher had to put your name forward for the class.


Oh, my!!! (Picture a giant light bulb over my head!)  If it had not been for her, I would not have met and been inspired by Yoda.

Suddenly, I realized that my junior English teacher needed to be added to my team of super heroes!

One of the great aspects of teaching is that you make a positive impact on lives forever! You have the chance to inspire futures. You make a difference, but only if you believe in your students. You have to see that every child matters. You have to go out of your way to help them achieve their dreams. You may never know the difference you made in the life of a child, but maybe one day out of the blue you will get a phone call, text, or letter that says..."Thank you for believing in me. You are one of my super heroes!"

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

One Secret to Great Teaching.

Great teachers know the kids they teach!

My senior year in high school, I had an English teacher who was amazing! I refer to her as Yoda...wise, caring, and, minus the green, actually kind of looked like him...

She was demanding, but she was also fun! She introduced us to reading/discussion circles and Socratic seminars before they were called that (Ok...see something else did come out of the early 80's rather than just The Flock of Seagulls and Margaret Thatcher...this is an Austin Powers reference). We brought food and talked about literature.

We read, read, and read more. Some books I truly liked and others I still don't get ...see The Bear by Faulkner. Then we wrote draft after draft. Every time getting feedback that we were expected to use to adjust our writings before they were accepted for a grade. She drove us all nuts with this...

 The coolest thing about her was that she saw each of her students as people.. She knew our names from day one. She used our names. But it went beyond just using our names. She actually paid attention to us. I'll never forget the day that we had a test...I was not feeling well...I was there to take the test...not sure what I looked like...but she said, "Steve, are you, ok?" I ended up going home. Had a 101 temperature. I was out for several days. When I returned...she worked with me to complete the test. She saw that I was sick. 

We are a month into school for some...do you know your kids names? Do you use them in the halls and in class? What do you do to get to know something about the kids you teach? Take some time...its worth it.

One secret to great teaching is getting to know the kids in your classes...