Satisfaction as Merit Pay

There has been a lot of talk about “merit pay” for teachers. I’m not here to debate the idea but I can tell you it has existed for years. I know because I have received it. You might wonder just how much I got. Well, it hasn’t been monetary. I hope this post is a bit more colorful than bragging about incentive money. For me, merit pay comes through watching kids “get it.” Let me elaborate. This is my audio visual desk where I do most of my teaching from. I also use a Mobi to travel around the classroom and control the laptop as well as the LCD projector remotely. These are all great tools but without a lesson plan strategy like EDI and a daily plan of what I plan to teach and assess, the fancy gadgets mean nothing. Continue reading “Satisfaction as Merit Pay”

Special File for Student Notes and Creations

Explains a “sunshine folder.” In this, you put special “gifts” from the kids and then when you are feeling down or just want a reminder that you “don’t suck” as a teacher, you can just pull the folder out and browse through it.

Often teachers share with me that they get trinkets and drawings from their students. I know I get my fair share. All too often we sweep them aside to the edges of our teaching desks and end up throwing them away. A mentor of mine several years back told me about something I know have and call a “sunshine folder.” In this, you put special “gifts” from the kids and then when you are feeling down or just want a reminder that you “don’t suck” as a teacher, you can just pull the folder out and browse through it.

I am not sure exactly why, but it seems that all children love to draw. I have been given so many pictures through the years it could probably fill a landfill. Most of them are gone forever because I didn’t hang on to them. After my mentor’s suggestion, I started keeping all the photos and small stapled envelopes my kids give me and it is getting quite encouraging already. I never know what to do with these gifts and the students always give them to me at inopportune times. Having the sunshine folder helps me keep their sentiments until a time when I can properly enjoy them and it shows the students I care enough to file it and read it at a later time I’ve noticed in recent years the students have used more “realism” in portraying my bald head. The last on I got gave me wings like George Constanza on Seinfeld. I guess looking at the ongoing realism of these pictures from my students is a little bit like accepting that I am aging. All the more reason to keep these special items in a dedicated place.

In the recent past I had a not-so-great day of teaching. I was quite deflated. Everything seemed to have a “catch” attached to it and nothing was working, not even my printer. So, I sat down and pulled out my sunshine folder. As I read through so many messages of “You’re the best … You rock … You’re the best teacher ever …” I found myself feeling better and reminded once again of why I do this wonderful though often difficult job of teaching.

Sounds and Spelling Cards Wall

  This is a new concept I am trying. Every ELA program I have worked with has a version of sound spelling cards for the teacher to use with the lessons. They can be used to teach spelling, grammar, and pronunciation. I’ve always posted them with staples or kept them with me as I teach using them close up with the students. A principal that was filling in at my school shared with me how the Reading Wonders sound and spelling cards have lessons on the back and therefore should be easily removable from the wall. I put little bronze hooks on the wall and hung them. Now I can just pick one off the wall and read from the back the teacher script. Teaching sounds and spelling us such an important concept and I think it often gets ignored. Kids do learn to spell from reading more but it doesn’t hurt to show them examples in writing on the board and the overhead projector.

I’m looking forward to teaching more of these lessons now that my wall is in place. A little change is good and teaching sounds and spelling I think will benefit my students greatly. For example, a lot of my kids through the years, I am teaching 4th grade, will make mistakes like this: He cict the ball. By using the sound spelling cards for the letters k and c I am providing them with the ability to go back and self-correct. In the photo you also see vocabulary word cards. Those are helpful before attempting to read the selection.

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.

When I Was Huge in Teaching

teaching_2007I use that adjective with my tongue firmly in my cheek. On a physical level I’m 5’8″ 170 lbs. I don’t think huge is quite the word to describe my countenance. On a professional level, I’m happy to see growth in my students each year. There are no bestselling books on my resume. The point is, I felt huge one day in teaching. Have you ever done something you were so proud of it felt like walking on clouds? That’s what this day was for me. I’ve never been famous either. Maybe that’s a blessing in disguise. Nonetheless, on one fateful day several years ago I was asked by my Principal to do an EDI lesson for some noteworthy and unmistakeably “huge” guests. That’s not ironic because as you will see in the other photo, O’Connell and Herb are both about 6’4″. They are hulking guys. This picture is me teaching a lesson to my class for a Daily Press reporter, the Adelanto School Board, many Principals in the district, the Superintendent of San Bernardino County Herb Fischer, and the Secretary of Education for the State of California, Jack O’Connell. It was standing room only! Continue reading “When I Was Huge in Teaching”

¿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.

Discovering Type with Teens (Book Review)

If your school is like mine, you are struggling to keep classroom control at this stage in the year. We have just finished our state testing and the kids are thinking about Summer vacation every day. I am integrating Science more into the curriculum which is helping a lot. Weaving many different objectives into the day can help when the kids are “done” with their year, mentally anyway. We need a special ingredient to keep our lessons effective.

As with objectives and subject matter, psychological type is an important thing to weave into your plans. A new book just released, Discovering Type with Teens, is an amazing resource when looking into the different ways your students process information. Mollie Allen, Claire Hayman, and Kay Abella are the authors. They offer excelling assessment guides on learning exactly what “type” of kids you are teaching. Knowing this information can help through all parts of the year but certainly the last few weeks.

Team Tables Configuration

IMG_2544.JPGI’ve made a few significant changes to the way I run my classroom teams. I’ve added an element that is quite innovative, shared with me by teacher and Adelanto board candidate Carlos Mendoza. We had a great visit sipping Starbucks and telling teacher war stories when he suggested something unique with the help of a pencil and napkin. I started implementing it today. My classroom runs on the concept of competition. I have the kids seated at u shaped tables instead of desks. This is in hopes they will be more collaborative.

Continue reading “Team Tables Configuration”

Trophies in the Classroom

I recognize students in the classroom year after year with 7 trophies I only needed to buy once.

Student recognition
I recognize students in the classroom year after year with 7 trophies I only needed to buy once.

Recognition is powerful in motivating students. The question is “How should we do it?” There are many ways teachers and employers do this every day. Plaques and awards are among them. Some ways present less of a challenge than others. Material rewards can be costly to replace and simple verbal rewards can seem canned. I thought I’d found a happy medium when I discovered one teacher in Santa Ana Unified who had been using a recycled trophy to recognize students. I saw a unique idea and wanted to try it with multiple trophies. Continue reading “Trophies in the Classroom”

Backward Map Review – A Great Way to do Test Prep

If you want your kids to feel comfortable with all the material, you need to get them familiar with it now. Using the past test to go over and review with the kids is like gold.

With about 20 days left to the California Standards Test (CST), it is challenging how to spend your teaching tie. Of course, the free mind of a teacher can analyze similar tests and divine what to reteach. This is only a little useful. The best way to do test prep is to analyze the data of your assessments and then “backward map” reteaching the questions that 50% or less missed. This is when an item analysis report comes in handy.

I have my data and it’s magneted up on my white board. Every day for the past week and now into the next days before the standards test I have been teaching test prep and reteaching the concepts where it appears only less than 50% understood. When direct lessons are happening it feels like the best way to teach. Of course you can’s always teach this way. You need to apply yourself to solid, direct instruction and doing backward mapping will help your teaching be more relevant and of more value on the CST. If you want your kids to feel comfortable with all the material, you need to get them familiar with it now. Using the past test to go over and review with the kids is like gold. (It works!)