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Archive for the ‘Teacher Stories’ Category

A Teacher’s Christmas Wish

17 Dec

Teacher Stories

This post was originally submitted by Joy of Teaching on December 15,2011.   

Given the current state of the Philadelphia School District there must be a ton of coal in the stockings of those who are abusing our schools.

The holiday season is upon us.  I know because the local radio station jolted me into it with the round-the-clock Christmas music a week before Thanksgiving.  The other day, I heard a song by Amy Grant titled “My Grown Up Christmas List”.  The lyrics express an adult’s wish for a peaceful world, long lasting friendships and healing.  This song has me thinking of what a Teacher’s Christmas List would look like.  So here is my version.

Dear Santa,

I am a teacher with the School district of Philadelphia.  I don’t know if you have paid attention to the many changes that our students, teachers and staff have endured this past year, but let me say they have been painful, shocking and at times disheartening.  So, this year I am writing to you with my teacher’s wish for this school year.

Could you please see to it that all of our students have a healthy breakfast, a warm bed and a supportive family?  This will make learning much easier and more enjoyable.

Could the students be blessed with an energetic, thoughtful and collaborative faculty?  The students will become engaged, participate more and most importantly feel respected and loved.

Can every student have books to read; Lots and lots of books to read, with many different topics and interests?  They will become lifelong readers.

Could you hide all of the ineffective programs and standardized tests?  They are a distraction from the art of educating children.  Maybe the elves could recycle them into more books!

Could you enlighten the administrative staff so that when they walkthrough our schools they can appreciate them for their diversity, dedicated staff and ingenuity.  It would help retain good teachers.

And if at all possible, could you put coal in the stockings of those who are abusing our schools; those who take many much needed dollars to enhance their own interests.  It’s for the children, please!

And for each teacher, I wish a stocking full of hugs, warm wishes and encouragement which is the real merit pay that they deserve.

Thank you,

Joy

 

Fail Mary Passes….in the Classroom but Not on the Field

04 Oct

Teacher Stories

Submitted by Joy of Teaching on October 4, 2012

By now most Americans with any link to media has heard about the (now settled) National Football League Referee strike.  This strike between the football officials and the NFL began in late August.  The striking officials were replaced with referees from other organizations and were considered sub-par replacement officiates by most media outlets.  Almost simultaneously, the Chicago Teacher’s Union was exacting their own strike (also settled) against the Chicago school district.  According to media outlets at that time, the Referees were asking for pay raises in the six digit range and the continuation of their pension plan.  The Chicago Teachers concerns were focused on working conditions that could affect student and teacher performance as well as an evaluation system based on student test scores.

As an avid reader of local and national news, I often read the comment sections of news websites.  Although at times, these comment sections are filled with far right/left winged opinions, I do feel it is a way to gauge the thoughts of others outside my friends, family and coworkers.  While following both of these national strike stories, I began to see a clear delineation between the attitudes of Americans in reference to the value placed on education and the value placed on a 16 week pastime. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Welcome to Philadelphia, Dr. Hite

19 Sep

Notes from the Field

Submitted by Joy of Teaching on September 19, 2012

Dear Dr. Hite,

Welcome to Philadelphia, the Cradle of Liberty!  We have some amazing historical sites to see during your stay.  Do take advantage of them.  In the meantime, we the long-time citizens of this wonderful city would like you to know that we do not trust you! We are sorry about this, but we feel this relationship should start out on an honest footing.  We have been kicked and beaten down so many times by the likes of former superintendents, politicians, entrepreneurs, administrators and one another that our immediate reaction to your arrival is wrought with fear and trepidation. And that’s just the honest ones!  Corruption runs deep in this city, try to avoid it at all cost.  It usually ends badly for us citizens.

Oh, truly we would like to welcome you with open arms and put you on a pedestal.  We want to believe all the things that we heard you say at your introduction meetings.  Typically Philadelphians are the forgiving types; see anything related to the Eagles football team.  But, when it comes to the head of the Philadelphia School District we lack the fortitude to forget the past.  It has been a hard road for all involved.  The scars run deep. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Creating a Classroom Where Everything Is Possible

14 Jun

Teacher Stories

Submitted by Angela Chan on June 14, 2012

The last week of school is often dominated by the frenetic busy-ness of finalizing report card grades, packing up the classroom, and reorganizing for next year’s new classes.  Just as important, though, is finding the time to reflect on the successes and shortcomings of the past year and to use these insights as an opportunity to grow as teachers. In doing so, we will be able to more effectively plan for our students’ continued learning as they grow with us.

For me personally, reflection is also an opportunity to re-evaluate my hopes for students and my beliefs as a teacher, to look closely at my own approaches and to build on my learning to ensure my own seamless professional growth from year to year.

I believe that the classroom is a communal space that nurtures the holistic growth of children.  School experiences are as much about the forming of character and development of citizenship as they are about developing skills in literacy and math.  I have always envisioned a classroom in which my students love to read and write, and where their collective development as readers and writers becomes a community-building process.  Every year, I see the spark of curiosity in my students and I strive to impart an eagerness to learn that I hope will last my students their lifetimes. Read the rest of this entry »

 

My Teacher Doesn’t Let Us Talk

09 Apr

Teacher Stories

Joy of Teaching, April 9, 2012

 

I often work with students in small groups providing strategies for improving reading.  One of the activities I ask students to complete is a word sort that directs student focus on word features to improve decoding skills.   Part of this activity involves students working together to decide how a group of words can be sorted.  They must reach a conclusion and describe for me their thinking behind the word sort that they created.

Recently, I was observing students during this process, when one of the students shared that she thought this was fun.  I asked her why she thought so and she replied “My teacher doesn’t let us talk!”

It reminded me that, in our classroom lives of school reform, so many important things have been pushed out of daily instruction.  As adults we can surely recognize the importance of communication in our lives.  We become successful through communicating with peers, employers and partners.  Without good communication skills, we are usually unable to reach our best potential.

So why is that we forget to let our students do the talking.  I learn so much about my students and their thinking through their impromptu conversations.  Children develop language skills by using language.  Yet, quiet classrooms are often perceived as ‘good’ classrooms.  Noisy classrooms are perceived as ‘unruly’. A really productive classroom is a combination of both.

Teachers who direct students on a task and then allow them to work together to complete the task expect to hear a productive level of conversation.  Sure, students get off task, but that is the teacher’s job to redirect the students.  A teacher should monitor conversation, guide and engage in the conversations.  Most importantly, the teacher should listen to the conversations.  I actually learn from my students when I am part of the process.  Students demonstrate their higher order thinking skills through language.  My instruction is often guided by this enjoyable opportunity.

I hope we can all find the time in our busy instructional days to allow our students the opportunity to enrich their language development through the art of conversation.  In my classes, we will continue to talk, talk, talk!  After all, the skill of communication will largely determine a student’s success, now and in the future.

 

 

 

When Did ‘Walkthrough’ Become a Bad Word?

21 Feb

Teacher Stories
Submitted by: Joy of Teaching on February 21, 2012

In 2003-04 I had the benefit of attending a year-long professional development series that focused on school improvement working with School Based Leadership Teams. During these meetings the leadership teams at various schools worked to improve classroom instruction using strategies that provided information using classroom walkthroughs. Each school team identified areas of strengths and needs at their individual school. Then, the team designed a template to measure and record observations during the walkthrough. The team would visit designated classrooms together and following the walkthrough, the team would consult and share their observations. At Leadership Team meetings the results of the walkthrough observations and data collection would guide the team to identify areas of need. The team would then design professional development for the faculty based on these walkthroughs. It was collaborative, informative and designed to assist teachers in improving classroom instruction.

In recent years, the Philadelphia School District created Walkthrough Teams from the regional offices. These teams would visit schools, make observations and suggestions for improvement. I thought that, based on my past experience, this would be beneficial to all involved. I did not expect that these Walkthrough Teams would twist the goals of a collaborative exercise in school leadership into a punitive and painful experience for teachers. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Accepting Failure

14 Feb

Teacher Stories

Submitted by Timothy Boyle on February 14, 2012

A Big Idea that came out of my EduCon 2.4 experience was creating conditions in which failure is acceptable, useful, and fast. Students failing at something should be viewed as something instructive to both learner and educator. A classroom without risk damns those who don’t “get it” the first time. I really took to this idea and thought it related well to the kind of writing instruction I do with my 2nd grade classes.

So when my first group of 2nd graders came to me this week, I had the chance to apply some of this thinking into practice. One of the four skills 2nd graders are working on in the 3rd report card period is to edit their writing. This skill is a year-long process but I haven’t felt like they really understood what I meant by “edit”.

You can’t edit if you haven’t failed in some way. I needed some language to express this to the kids however. “You’ve failed” won’t work; they’ve heard it too much already. In a writing strategies conversation from this weekend a teacher shared the idea of having students write purposely bad sentences. The logic behind the idea is that students might be afraid to participate if they can get it wrong; removing that fear elicits more participation. Read the rest of this entry »

 

The Lives and Dreams of Our Children

07 Feb

Teacher Stories

Submitted by Angela Chan on February 7, 2012

As a classroom teacher, my position would likely not be among those eliminated within the next weeks to close the $61 million budget gap by June.  Still, it was painful to read the list of items on the SRC’s “Options Menu” during that Thursday, January 19th meeting.  How many more colleagues’ lives will be affected by massive layoffs, and how will the students cope?  School police officers, nurses, bilingual counseling assistants, teachers, music programs, athletics—how do they matter in the lives of our students, and how do students experience the loss of these resources and relationships?

Like many public school students in Philadelphia, my students are adjusting to the instability of losing teachers and staff who were laid off last year.  This year we are doing our best to live with our losses and work within our new school community.  Besides the sadness of severed relationships with caring adults who are no longer here, we are adjusting to the loss of basic things to run classrooms. When we faced a shortage of trash bags, my class had a community meeting and graciously decided to bring in plastic grocery bags so that we can continue to separate our breakfast trash and not exacerbate the rodent problem in the school.  Now, the most recent budget news threatens to disrupt yet again my students’ lives when we have barely come to grips with our losses from last year. Read the rest of this entry »

 
 

The Emotional Life of Middle School Students

22 Dec

Teacher Stories

Submitted by Teacher Man on December 22, 2011

The more that I progress as a classroom teacher, the better I am at making new and important levels of observation about my students.  Having to spend less time focused on new teacher issues like pacing of lessons and classroom management, I am able to spend more time getting to know my students as individuals. One of the most common observations I have made about my 7th and 8th graders this year is that many of them experience a bad combination of overwhelming emotions with few healthy options to access or express their feelings.

It seems as though my students experience waves of new and powerful emotions everyday. A very important part of being twelve or thirteen is experiencing the many different life changes that begin to occur at this age. An equally important part of the middle  years is learning how to access and express these feelings and changes in a healthy and productive way. Read the rest of this entry »

 

A Teacher’s Christmas Wish

15 Dec

Teacher Stories

Submitted by: Joy of Teaching on December 15,2011

The holiday season is upon us.  I know because the local radio station jolted me into it with the round-the-clock Christmas music a week before Thanksgiving.  The other day, I heard a song by Amy Grant titled “My Grown Up Christmas List”.  The lyrics express an adult’s wish for a peaceful world, long lasting friendships and healing.  This song has me thinking of what a Teacher’s Christmas List would look like.  So here is my version.

Dear Santa,

I am a teacher with the School district of Philadelphia.  I don’t know if you have paid attention to the many changes that our students, teachers and staff have endured this past year, but let me say they have been painful, shocking and at times disheartening.  So, this year I am writing to you with my teacher’s wish for this school year.

Could you please see to it that all of our students have a healthy breakfast, a warm bed and a supportive family?  This will make learning much easier and more enjoyable.

Could the students be blessed with an energetic, thoughtful and collaborative faculty?  The students will become engaged, participate more and most importantly feel respected and loved.

Can every student have books to read; Lots and lots of books to read, with many different topics and interests?  They will become lifelong readers.

Could you hide all of the ineffective programs and standardized tests?  They are a distraction from the art of educating children.  Maybe the elves could recycle them into more books!

Could you enlighten the administrative staff so that when they walkthrough our schools they can appreciate them for their diversity, dedicated staff and ingenuity.  It would help retain good teachers.

And if at all possible, could you put coal in the stockings of those who are abusing our schools; those who take many much needed dollars to enhance their own interests.  It’s for the children, please!

And for each teacher, I wish a stocking full of hugs, warm wishes and encouragement which is the real merit pay that they deserve.

Thank you,

Joy