Wednesday, July 24, 2013

10 Things I've Learned from Teaching

I decided to hop on the bandwagon and join in on the 10 Things I've Learned from Teaching that was started by Miss Kindergarten.

I'm sure some of these will be redundant from other we go....

1. Be passionate about what you do and have fun! 

I am so thankful to be in a job that I love! I absolutely get a thrill out of finding a cool lesson plan and can't wait to share it with my kids. Chances are if I am excited and passionate about what I teach it rubs off on my kids. I try to incorporate a few fun daily activities into my lessons as well. I don't do powerpoint notes very often, but when I do I try to make it fun! Add in some crazy funny pictures throughout that you think the kids will enjoy. They love the little things too like slide transitions and sound effects.

I can't wait to use this one when we have a group activity this year!

They also love pictures and clipart to go along with the information they are learning. I am a visual learner so I always try to incorporate pictures of things we are talking about in class. Sometimes I just walk over to my computer and pull up a google image and show it to the class of what I am talking about.

At the end of the class period we almost always have Youtube time! This was an idea I got at the beginning of the year when I started Whole Brain Teaching (WBT) and saw that kids wanted to earn some "fun" time! As the year went on I got bad about not doing the WBT ideas  every day so they kind of fizzled out. However, Youtube time remained. The kids knew that they could pick a video IF they stayed on task and we got our lesson done. Sometimes I had to stop class for the last 2 minutes just to pop a video up!

This one was a huge hit this year!:


I let the kids pick the videos and they have to promise it is school appropriate. If I found the video is not because of a cuss word, etc. I stop the video right there and that student loses the privilage of picking a video for awhile. Students know the rules and this has only happened a handful of times--let's be honest, some are honest mistakes. Kids watch more PG-13 stuff at home. My rule is G and PG for the classroom.

2. Be flexible! 

I know this is really hard because I feel so much pressure, especially as a Language Arts teacher whose content is tested every year, but you really have to go with the flow sometimes. There will be interruptions. Sometimes the kids will get called out of class and you had no idea this would happen--football meeting after the announcements ran a little too long, etc. It will be ok, I promise. On days like these I try to just relax. If I was planning on introducing new content and I feel that I have too many kids out I'll do a review activity instead. It will be OK. :)

3. Don't lose your cool! 

I have been blessed in my past with over 15+ years of babysitting experiences thanks to starting at the age of 11. When a kid offends you or challenges you in class I know what you want to do--you want to put the kid in his place or maybe even go off. Take a deep breath. Sometimes just giving them "the look" or, the "I can't believe you just said/did that" face will get them to stop. 

I have also learned a secret power....

This past year (as has happened for the past couple of years) the kids finally come around to an Ah-Ha moment. One student eneviatably will say to me, "Mrs. Finley--you never yell at us or raise your voice." To which I reply, "Why would I? There is no point in yelling at you all or having a temper tantrum." My kids have actually picked up this tidbit about me. If they don't get quite after I have already asked them to I simply stand in the front of the room and wait. Within 3 seconds my fellow minions will turn on one another and say, "Shhh Mrs. Finley is waiting!" 

The same thing happens when a student says something that he/she shouldn't. Not only does "the look" come in handy, but my minions turn on the student quick. Nothing works better than a little peer pressure, am I right? They will say things like, "Why would you say that to Mrs. Finley? She is the nicest teacher ever!" etc. 

So try not to lose your cool--the kids are watching. Also, remember they make talk like adults, but they are still kids. Most of mine are 12. I try not to stoop to their level.

4. Don't be afraid of parents/guardians.

Parents want to be involved in their child's life. Now, do I enjoy making bad phone calls home? Absolutely not! However, it helps to build a rapport with them before you ever have to call home to tell them that Little Johnny did something in class.

Before I taught at my current school I taught at a school with REALLY high poverty and was classified as Title 1 because of the population of student's on free/reduced lunch for three years. I learned so much about teaching working at this school that is invaluable to me now!

I know sometimes it seems like parents may not care, but they do, I promise! Many of my parents at my Title 1 school were single women or even a grandparent raising the student. Many were juggling multiple children and many even had difficult job hours (lots of parents that worked night shifts). So although they may not make it to open house or always return your phone call promptly they DO care! I promise!

Build your relationships with parents and you will see a change in your classroom. It makes a world of difference if you ever encounter a problem because you have built that rapport. The parents have a face and know a little about what kind of a teacher you are--they know you sincerely care about their child and his/her education.

Ha! So cute!

Last note, I mentioned that I call home on every kid in my classes within the first month of school. If you notice one or two kids who might be more difficult right off the bat call home as soon as possible to get that first touch of positive contact made. They say it takes 3 positive phone calls for every 1 negative phone call. Try to keep that in mind when talking to parents. 

5. Avoid the water cooler and gossip mill.

No matter where you work you know who these people are. Steer clear. I'm not saying be unkind, just know that if you share something be comfortable that it may (and probably will) get out to the whole school. If you are new to a school and don't know who these people are yet just don't share anything with anybody you wouldn't want out until it is made clear to you who you can trust.

I try hard to avoid this...let's be honest, we all get sucked in at times. Just try to make the best choices every day! :) 

I try to be studious at school anyway. If I have a planning period without a meeting I am busy working in my classroom lesson planning, grading, making copies, touching base with parents, etc. I am so overly socialized sometimes by my kids that I need this time anyways to unwind and get back in my groove--this also usually means less work for me to take home. :)

6. Continue your own professional development.

I am so thankful for my wonderful school district and all of the opportunities that are available to me through them. They offer so many opportunities for Language Arts teachers and give out some GREAT free resources! That Laura Robb binder I mentioned earlier:

I got it completely FREE! It has been one of my trusty best friends in the past year and a half that I have had it. I promised that I would attend the 5 meetings in my district (approx. 1 a month) on how to use the binder in my classroom and I got to keep the binder until I retire for my personal use! Not only did they walk us through the binder and point out great resources for us but it was refreshing to hear from someone that used it and why they loved it!

If I could stay in college forever, I think I would! I absolutely love English and love teaching! I think I mentioned I recently finished my 30+ hours beyond my M.A. and got my Gifted and Talented endorsement. If money grew on trees I would love to get my ELL endorsement, reading speciality degree, etc. I just feel that knowledge is invlauable and the more I know the better I can help my students. So take advantage of all of the free resources that you can!

I wish! I learn so much sometimes being able to read about my fellow amazing blogger friends and find some great teachers and resources through pinterest!

One last thing, if you live in a college town or near a college town see what they offer! I just recently learned that the University of Kentucky (near where I live) has some great resources for teachers and links up to school districts all over the state. I signed up for their listserv e-mails and now I get updates about other PD's going on all over Kentucky! If I find one that inspire me I can attend and if not--> delete! :)

Why thank you Mr. Gosling! ;)

7. Take time for yourself.

Remember to relax and try to have some "me" time. There are days when I feel like I have so much to do and need to grade papers, etc. but I have to tell myself to stop. I have done all I can do for today. Taking that hot bubble bath and reading that book before bed is a must. Don't let yourself get burnt out....and when you need to, use those personal days and enjoy it!

Ok, not EVERY night. But at least an hour or so before bed. :)

8. Don't grade everything.

Sure, I may tell the kids I'm going to take up their papers and grade them, but if it is really something not that important or I just don't have time then don't! It will be ok! 

HA! Thanks Gandalf!

9. Teach from your heart.

This really goes back to #1 as well but it is so important. It is how you love what you are doing and stay engaged and the kids can tell and pick up on your energy... I promise!

Probably one of my favorite teacher movies ever...Dead Poet's Society! I love when the kids stand on their desks! *chills*

10. Get to know your kids.

All of your kids have a story. The kids that sleeps in class--there is a reason for why that happens.  Find out about your kids. Invest in them. They are our future and they deserve a caring and kind teacher. 

I have called home several times for sleepy kids in class concerned. I call home before that D or F even shows up on a midterm. I call home when I am concerned about my kids.

I also talk to the counselors. You are the student's best advocate! If you feel like something is going on...chances are it probably is! If the student doesn't want to talk to you see if they will open up to a counselor, etc.

If you can't get in touch with parents, talk to the social work. Make a home visit with him/her. 

If a parent isn't returning phone calls or e-mails call the next number listed--sometimes this is a friend, sometimes it is a grandparent. Let them know you need to talk to the parent. See if they have a new phone number or a way of getting in touch with the parent so that the two of you can talk.

Schedule a parent conference. Sometimes you also need to invite the student in towards the end to figure out what is going on.

Just don't give up! 

Nobody said that teaching was easy, but you will love it so long as you teach from your heart.

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  1. Our lists sound sooooo much alike. The look? LOL! My kids call mine the "ice blue stare." And how they turn on each other... oh my, yes! Loved reading your list!

    1. HAHA I love that they have named the look! That is awesome! Peer pressure is definitely my secret weapon. :)


  2. I really like your youtube time. I will be implementing that this year!!!!!

    Thanks for sharing your list!
    Lessons With Coffee

    1. Your kids will love it! It also lets you see what they are interested in. I have even found some videos for future use in my actual lessons. LOL!


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