Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Supporting Teachers

When I first began teaching the only coaches in the school system were athletic coaches. Now there are many different types of coaches. Today we have weight loss or health coaches, relationship coaches, parent coaches, business coaches, life coaches, career coaches, and a smorgasbord of other coaches. One of the newest kinds of coaches in schools are literacy coaches.

When I began teaching there were reading specialists in the schools. Although their role wasn't exactly the same as a literacy coach, I had the luxury of working with a wonderful reading specialist, Jane. One of the most positive experiences we shared was when she proctored while I administered the California Achievement Test to my first graders. I remember being absolutely terrified to give this test because I had never given a test to a whole class. We were instructed to read the teacher's manual and follow the instructions. While I was reading the directions to the class I remember thinking.....am I reading too fast...too slow...or placing too much emphasis on certain words? When we took a restroom break, I talked to Jane about how nervous I was...and she offered to let me observe her administer the next portion of the test. I gladly accepted, not knowing this was an opportunity that many people never have. By observing Jane administer the test I was able to notice the way that she read the items in her regular "talking voice". Her expression was completely neutral and she never placed particular emphasis on any of the words. Watching her gave me the confidence I needed to administer the next portion of the test. Jane encouraged me and let me know if I needed to slow down or speed up and if my tone was neutral she let me know. From this year forward, I never doubted my abilities to administer a test. Thank you, Jane for helping me learn how to administer a standardized test. Thank you, literacy coaches, for giving our teachers' confidence.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

School Supplies: A Love Story

My daughter loves, loves, loves school supplies. I thought when she entered middle school she wouldn't need as many school supplies as we had purchased when she was in elementary school. How many middle school projects require crayons, markers, and glue? But, I was wrong. As soon as the school supplies hit the shelves, we made a mad dash to the store and she walked the aisles for hours. We had to be sure to go when we had plenty of time, because goodness gracious we couldn't hurry while shopping for school supplies. Selecting the "just right" color and texture of folders, the perfect pencils, and notebooks were critical to the successful start of the school year. When she entered high school, I was pretty sure the love of shopping for school supplies would end, but it didn't. The types of supplies changed a little...we began purchasing fancier pens and pencils and special folders and notebooks. When she began college there was no doubt in my mind the school supplies purchases were over. I was beginning to be a little sad about her being all grown up. Wrong! Not only did the school supplies purchases continue, but the repertoire of supplies expanded and I spent more money than ever on printers, cameras, and storage bins. My daughter became a teacher. I think that secretly in a small corner of her heart one reason is so she can legitimately continue to purchase school supplies. She just had her first baby....and the school year is beginning. She's not going to teach this year because she is staying home with her baby, but I know that more than likely she's already purchased a new notebook or pencils. She simply can't resist

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Back to the Future: New Teachers Building Relationships with Veteran Teachers by Sharing Ideas

Building relationships with veteran teachers can bring rich rewards to first year teachers. As I remember my first year, there were plenty of veteran teachers in the school in which to build relationships. One of the veteran teachers in first grade would drop by my classroom while I was teaching. With my back to the door and facing the children, sometimes, when I turned around, voila, there she would be, standing in my room with her hands on her hips. She would smile at me, look around for a little while and then leave, slipping away as quietly as she had entered. Sometimes I would worry about what she was thinking and if I was doing something wrong. But through the two years I worked with her, I realized I needed to build a relationship with her. I buried the worried feelings I had by telling myself she was just interested in what I was doing. Sometimes, at the end of the day, I would go to her room and talk with her. She shared ideas and I shared mine. I learned she was an "old-maid" and was simply very interested in the lives of other people. I only worked at that school two years, but ten years later while eating family night supper at church, my life crossed paths with this particular teacher again. I was tickled to learn she had married. However, her love of knowing about the lives of other people had not disappeared.

To all the new teachers, I advise you to build relationships with veteran teachers. It won't happen without intentionality. Make an effort to get to know the people with whom you are working. If necessary, establish a specific time to meet. They can offer advice related to discipline and curriculum. They can share ideas and provide support and encouragement. They can answer your questions about school norms. This veteran teacher never knew that she planted the seed of willingness to share ideas with colleagues in me. From the two years I worked at Mamie Brosnan, one of the things I learned about sharing ideas was---if someone can take an idea that I have shared and make it bigger and/or better, I'm thrilled. I'm honored. I consider it a compliment. I'm thankful that I have helped someone else. Share your ideas. It's through sharing that we all learn more.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Back to the Future

I began my career in education teaching first grade in an inner city school, one with the highest poverty in district, Mamie Brosnan Elementary. Many of my students had never attended kindergarten and some had never learned to cut with scissors or hold pencils. Almost every child in the school lived in the housing projects that surrounded the school. I was fortunate to have a para-professional. Like me, it was her first year as an educator. Although she did not have a degree in education, she had an understanding of the growth and development of young children as the mother of two young children. She was eager to learn about "teaching school" and was a very hard worker. We were a great team. I loved working with her. Many of our experiences during that first year laid the foundation for my career. At the time, I had no idea how much the year would serve to shape my career. There are many experiences from that year that I want to share...therefore, I have created a series of posts related to this topic.

My classroom was located across from the office. The principal came into my room regularly....mostly just to say hello, and to check to see how things were going, but often times, he would ask my opinion on things he was pondering or wanting to accomplish. I remember how important he made me feel by asking me, a first year teacher, what I thought...as if I knew something! Whether I knew anything at all about the issues that he was dealing with, really didn't matter. What mattered and what I learned from this was how important it makes someone feel when you ask their opinion....and how important it is to visit classrooms often...because it is within these drop by visits and through these informal conversations that relationships are formed...trust is built...confidence is gained and the seeds of teacher leadership are planted. It shows that you care and there is nothing more important than caring.

Today, as I reflect on how much I appreciated the principal asking my opinion, my thoughts, and my ideas, I am reminded that it's not just young, first year teachers who appreciate this opportunity for input, but all people appreciate this. I'm also reminded that our students appreciate this opportunity too. As the school year approaches, try to find out what your students are interested in, what their passions are.....ask their opinion about what they want to learn and how they want to learn it.....then try to teach the concepts they have to learn through their interests. Show you care and they will learn.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

When Budget is on Your Mind

Think about these things: Live, Love, and Learn....

1. As your students share their lives with you, cherish every moment... live their lives with them by listening to their stories, reading the things they write, and looking at their pictures

2. Laugh at the funny things they say....love the humor they add to your life...enjoy being in the presence of your students

3. Look for the spark to ignite in their eyes....this is a clue of their learning

4. Remember...they are children.....if your patience is growing thin, don't take it out on them

5. Learn how to design work for your students using things that will be of interest to them....they will love you for it.....and they will learn more than you could ever imagine.