Creative Teaching Must Return

ccss-sbacIt doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel. It lives in the minds of those who want to teach kids more effectively. You can do this browsing the shelves at a teacher store and you can also do it by sitting in a jacuzzi and thinking about solutions with an open mind. Most of us have accumulated massive piles of teaching materials that we rarely use. Most of us also use the curriculum our district browsed and found and told us was the “holy” usage material. I am no knocking that by the way, I treasure my pacing guide handed down from the district office.

peanuts-comic-1ixwv2b-e1365293844540The challenges of Common Core in 2014-2015 are real. They are daunting on some levels. The time of rote delivery of uniform materials is long gone. We are the goal setters, we are the guides. Time online practicing emulation tests is non-negotiable. Beyond that, we must come up with daily routines that embed problem solving IN GROUPS. An illustration might be the way most people do their actual work in our world. Do policemen do work in a vacuum? Are they lone rangers? No. The same is true for butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers. No man is an island. The way there is not well lit but one thing is sure, the most creative teachers have the greatest assets. Follow them, be them.

Ten Ways to Say Good Job!

As teachers we often focus on the constructive words like “change that and turn it in again.” We are often guilty of not building our students up enough. Here are just ten ways to say good job. I invite you to put your ideas in the comments. Thanks for being positive with learners!

“1. Rock on! 2. That’s awesome! 3. I can tell you’ve been practicing. 4. That’s very colorful. 5. I like how neatly you’re working. 6. You really followed directions. 7. Way to show what you can do! 8. Bravo! 9. That’s fantastic. 10. Great work”.

The W.I.N. Philosophy

A memorable post written Aug 17, 2008. I bring it back once in a while because the W.I.N. philosophy is so valuable to me. I like to share it.

Well, I start back teaching tomorrow. It’s been an incredible summer with a trip to Vegas, to Magic Mountain, and several other small awesome places that my wife and I adore. My kids were out by the pool all summer which was really gratifying to watch. It makes all the hard work really worth it when you see your kids lost in the fun of it.

I’m going back to work (well, I did teach summer school for 6 weeks so it’s not like I was 100% off) tomorrow with a mantra and the W.I.N. philosophy. It stands for “What’s Important Now.” In teaching one is constantly bombarded with new demands and deadlines and sometimes it gets downright overwhelming. By focusing on the “WIN,” you are more effective over the course of a year. This could apply to anyone anywhere but it really helps me as a teacher. I use it in my blogging work as well.

Financial Aid Options for Teachers

Paying for schooling can be hard for aspiring teachers and teachers who are trying to continue their education. However, there are many different forms of aid available to help cover education costs. Here are some of the most commonly used financial aid options for teachers.

Student Loans

There are two fundamental types of student loans: those sponsored by the federal government and loans taken out through a private lending institution. There is a third alternative, peer-to-peer lending, which is becoming more popular each year. Before you decide on the type of loan that will work best for you it’s essential that you research the benefits and potential downside of each.

Federal Government Loans

Student loans taken out through the U.S. government are called Stafford loans or Perkins loans. The money comes directly from the United States Department of Education. If you qualify for a government loan, the money will come to you through a participating school. However, you must meet certain criteria before you’re considered eligible for a federal loan. The first thing that you need to do to qualify is to be enrolled in an accredited college or university. You can also qualify by enrolling in a trade, career, or technical school. As a general rule, Stafford loans don’t have to be paid back until after you graduate from college. However, if you leave school without earning a degree, it’s possibly that you could be required to start paying the loan back immediately. You will have to fill out an FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and go through a review process before being accepted. Another federal loan program, the Perkins loan program, is need-based, and carries a fixed 5% interest rate throughout the length of the loan term, which normally runs for 10 years.

TEACH, a Federal Program

TEACH (Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education) is aimed at those who would like to teach at a public or private school for low-income families. It is a grant program designed to help defray the cost of receiving your teaching degree. To qualify, you must be willing to teach four full academic years out of the next eight at a school that encourages enrollment by low-income family members. This money is in the form of a grant, so it won’t have to be paid back unless you don’t meet their criteria. If you back out of the agreement, that money will become an unsubsidized student loan and the funds will need to be paid back, with interest. Part of the criteria for TEACH is that you must be willing to instruct low-income children in high demand subjects such as mathematics, foreign languages, reading, science, and special education. To be considered eligible for a TEACH Grant, you have to fill out the FAFSA. However, there is no need to prove that you have a financial need in order to be eligible.

Private Loans

A private loan is the type of loan you would get from a private financial institution, such as a bank or credit union. Money from a private loan need not be designated specifically for your college education, it is merely money loaned to you with the expectation that it will be repaid, with interest, at agreed upon terms. While the terms of a federal loan are pretty standard, the terms of a loan through a private lender can vary quite a bit. A private loan is almost always determined based upon your credit rating. If you have a good credit score, your interest rates can be fairly low. If you don’t have good credit, your rates could be very high–you may even be asked to provide a cosigner. The terms for a private student loan are left entirely up to the financial institution you’re dealing with–you either take it or leave it.

Peer-to-Peer Lending

Peer-to-peer lending is fast becoming a popular method of securing a student loan. Essentially it is a financial agreement between two parties–a financial lending institution is not normally involved–whereby one person borrows money from another. Once the terms are agreed to, the borrower is expected to repay the loan within a predetermined time frame–with interest. A peer-to-peer loan is a formal agreement, usually requiring the borrower to sign a contract laying out the terms of repayment. Most people that take out a peer-to-peer loan instead of borrowing from a bank or the government have a poor credit rating or low grades that aren’t high enough to qualify for a government loan.

Guest post from Karen Schweitzer. Karen writes about online schools for BestOnlineColleges.com.

Obsolete Technology

Obsolete TechnologyHow many Windows operating systems can you remember? Mine go way back. I think the first time I was aware of an upgrade available was in 1993 or so. They were really growing and changing back then. I won’t get into my critique of Windows 8. I’ll throw this question out though: Since when is shutting down a “setting?” I suppose there are strengths in that operating system as well so I’ll move on. Nowhere can you feel the obsolescence of technology more than in the public schools. It seems districts either throw way too much money at technology kids can’t understand or they hang on to the antiquated stuff in fear the former will be true. I have a friend who collects age old machine keyboards. Some are made by IBM and others he has are made now for gaming and such. He has an affinity for the old machine feel of the keys. They give more of a resistance than the new ones. Continue reading “Obsolete Technology”

Monetary vs. Non Monetary Rewards in the Classroom

Here’s another topic for my teacher journal and I hope to get some external input in the comments on it. In every class there should be some sort of rewards system. Kids are small adults and adults work for rewards, why shouldn’t they? In teaching, I have found the PC and mainstream way most teachers take is the way of monetary rewards. Kids follow the rules and get junk the teacher buys with her/his own money or other sources. There is a problem I see with this monetized rewards system. If kids do right to get a tangible physical reward, they will only do right when they can get a reward. This is a poor way to prepare kids for life because many times in life we are not rewarded monetarily for doing the right thing.

I prefer non monetary rewards. When I was a Pizza Hut manager, the trainers told us that people will do more for a compliment than they will for a slight raise. People want to be seen. Again, students are small people so why wouldn’t they behave the same way grownups do? Throughout the day, I make sure I am giving high fives and compliments when they are warranted. I don’t go out and buy a bunch of monetary “prizes” for my students. Once in a while I will buy my kids stuff but I keep this few and far between because I know training them to crave non-monetary rewards is a more suitable training for the world we all live and work in.

It’s possible I’m a little bitter because in 1997 something happened in my classroom that really changed me. I bought a small mechanized Harley Davidson motorcycle toy to give away at the end of the month. (I also regularly bought monetary rewards for my class at that time). The $40 toy was stolen off my desk and I never retrieved it. The kids never revealed who and how it was taken. I decided pretty soon after that event that it was not the best idea to have monetary rewards in the classroom. That’s my view, what do you think?

Focus Times

IMG_3685What if you could achieve more in less time? Most people would be interested I think. You can’t take away time from your day but focusing can help you supercharge the minutes that you have, without burning out your students. If a doctor says you are Vitamin deficient you are going to ask which vitamin? This is so you can supplement that shortage to bring it back to par. You may be getting some vitamin D, for example, but not enough to meet your body’s demands. In that case, you would focus on Vitamin D supplement to your diet or pills. It’s similar in our classroom planning. Continue reading “Focus Times”

Is a Teaching Career a Safe Bet in this Economy?

Below is an excerpt taken from an article I wrote, published at Blogcritics.

With economic woes at the forefront, young people choosing a career have their work cut out for them. A job like teaching, which once seemed to this Gen-Xer to be a solid choice, is now in question because of budget cuts. Not only could it prove difficult to keep a teaching job in the future, but even more likely, the pay could deteriorate below survival amounts. How can a government pay its teachers when it can’t even keep its books straight? The upside of this may be that only those who love teaching and feel “called” to it will apply. That, of course, would benefit the students of America.

Then again, maybe I am wrong. Maybe teachers will retain the decent position they have now on the food chain. Maybe the trade-off of teaching as opposed to working in business will remain a medium income with the security of a contract year after year. While some of my friends after high school sought business degrees and big salaries, I chose education. I have seen some of my friends crash and burn in their quest for the almighty dollar, and I have seen others flourish beyond what I ever believed possible. As for me, I am happy as a teacher, but some months are harder than others at just making ends meet.

Like most of you, I’ve been very concerned about the bailout crisis in American politics. I know we have a deficit in the trillions, and now Bush and others say we must write a $700 billion check from the future to the failed banks. Scary. I can’t help but wonder what will happen to teaching as a career. Our salaries come out of that empty pot from which they are pulling the $700 billion. But isn’t teaching a need of society? Won’t our government make sure that the children have the teachers they need and that the teachers are taken care of?

Read the whole article via A Teaching Career: Safe in this Economy? – Blogcritics Culture.

¿Que? When Language Barriers Get Funny

Scott had developed a shocking trend of “mooning” people on the playground. It was first brought to my attention by the noon-duty aides and then later by other students. Each time I gave him a detention and he missed his recess . . . but the mooning continued so I wrote a note home.

worldlanguagesThis post is a break in discussing classroom lesson plans, one of my classic jokes in language teaching. Scott was a wild 4th grader. He was the first out the door at recess and the last one in. He was also extremely funny to a first year teacher. While other teachers had given up on the hispanic lightning bolt, I was ready for the challenge. It was the stuff that esl lessons online are made of only computers weren’t much then.

Scott had developed a shocking trend of “mooning” people on the playground. It was first brought to my attention by the noon-duty aides and then later by other students. Each time I gave him a detention and he missed his recess . . . but the mooning continued so I wrote a note home. Normally, this would amount to humor but to a teacher it means some creative discipline.

Being a new teacher, I was not as savvy as I am now after almost 10 years. It didn’t occur to me that his parents might not be able to read a note in English. Scott accepted the note and I told him the customary warning that if he did not bring it back the next day signed, he would have no recess and there would be a call home.

When he brought the note back, I assumed the issue was resolved . . . but then recess came. Yup, he did it again. This time I had to schedule a parent conference. I spoke timid Spanish then but I did speak with his mother over the phone and she verbosely apologized in her native tongue. We made an appointment to meet about it and I made sure I had a bilingual aide on site available to clearly translate the meeting. What followed might be considered the best of interactive esl lessons, for me anyway.

In the meeting Scott sat next to his mother and I began to explain how ashamed I was to be Scott’s teacher when he did this at recess. The mother listened to the translator and then replied in Spanish to the effect of: “I know, we hate it when we do it at home and at the store, but everybody slips sometimes you know?”

After hearing the exact translation I was astonished. I said with the clearest Spanish I knew: “le permiten removar sus pantalones en publico a veces?” If you don’t speak Spanish, I said “You allow him to take off his pants in public?” If you do speak Spanish, you can see I need some tutoring. Then she said:

“QUE?”

The woman flushed immediately and looked at her son with a furor I rarely see in moms. She babbled something quick and angry at her son, slapped him on the head and then said in broken English:

“He told us you were mad at heem ’cause he deen’t tuck hees shirt een.”

And after that, Scott behaved and I went back to focusing on writing lesson plans.