4.30.2009

Guidelines to Shine: 10 Dress for Success Tips


To follow up my recent controversial post,
Is Cute Acceptable for Teachers? I went straight to the heart of America for professional dress: I googled.

Not suprisingly, there weren't a lot of fresh ideas. There are always the basics: be neat and clean, wear conservative colors(aka oatmeal), wear a blazer, knee-length or longer skirts, simple makeup, very little, jewelry, and all the other rules that contribute to the stereotypical teacher style. I'm looking for business casual tips, not super conservative, formal attire.

I found a few tips here that are a bit more helpful:

Stick with pumps or flats. Pumps are the quintessential business shoe for women. Choose a pump with a closed toe and a two- to three-inch heel in black, brown or navy. As an alternative to heels, and to wear with pantsuits, flats are a good choice. Again, a closed toe is appropriate here. Your flats should look like a man's loafers. All shoe pictures from Payless.



Style hair conservatively. A professional woman's hair does not provide distraction to herself or anyone else. Long hair should be pulled back or put up and secured in place. Short hair should be neatly styled out of the face.

But I still didn't think this totally fit the non-business education world.

So, I decided to write my own.

1. Creased pants. Preferably dark colored. Pants that are already creased take away the work of ironing. Dark colors on bottom make you look slimmer and sleeker. (Is sleeker a word?) Pants that are fitted at the top and flare out toward the bottom. The flaring away from the body also makes the waist look smaller and adds length to your stature. (Bonus word)

2. Collared button-up. Collared shirts and jackets are a must have! They instantly pull any outfit together. It's the final touch, making you look neat and put together. Darting in the seams de-emphasize the waist and emphasize bust while the buttons ensure you're covered everywhere. CHECK FOR GAPPING! Great for layering.

3. Well paired jewelry. Balance is key. When wearing jackets or collared shirts, forget a necklace. If you wear flashy or dangly bracelets, scale back on the bracelets and rings. Shirts without collars and buttons may need a longer necklace to bring some life to the outfit. P.S. Pearls are always professional.

4. Shoes. See the tip above. I rarely, if ever, wear heels for comfort factor alone. Comfort first! If I do wear heels, they are kitten heels (tiny heels). Being 5'8" I don't need the height nor the pain. But as my friend @iMrsF suggested, clicky heels are a good way to alert students of your presence.

5. All purpose bag. You need a great bag in a neutral color. I usually go with gray but a maroon/red, tan, or white will also work well. I can never go for a black purse: it won't match any of my browns! And vice versa. Size and material is an important factor. You want a material that is durable and easy to clean, yet that won't wear out easily. A bag should be big enough to carry most things but not everything. You don't want to roll around a suitcase or have a small bag overflowing with the basics. Make sure your bag won't cause shoulder or back pain.

6. Pink. You always need a POP of color. It takes away the boring, shows off your personality, and in my opinon, just makes you feel better. Expecially brights ones.


The above are my basic tips. Now for the bonus!!


7. Vests. I heart vests. Sweater vests. Puffy vests. Vests that you button. Vests that you zip. Vests are the first cousin of jackets. Vests can be worn over turtlenecks and thermals in the winter, polos or short sleeve shirts in the spring. Argyle is a 16,895,879,084 point bonus. LOVE argyle! And stripes.


8. Camis. Extremely versatile. All purpose. In any season. My favorite are the kind that have lace at the top and bottom hem with a straight across neckline. Wear them under low cut shirts to prevent cleavage and to just keep everything covered. Wear them under button up shirts to prevent gaping holes that your teenage boys use their imaginations to fill. Keep it covered! Wear them under shirts that are a little too short. Wear under blazers/jackets. A bit of lace peeking out can dress up a ton of outfits you already own. Buy them in a ton of colors and you can mix and match your wardrobe endlessly!

9. Scarves. With a ton of ways to tie them and inifinite styles to choose from, these work wonders. First, they really can keep you warm. Two, a well placed scarf can hide cleavage or gasp, stains! Third, they add color and dimension to your outfit. These look great with jackets and sweaters. Plus, they're just fun. Picture from here.



10. Nails. I love getting my nails done! It is my luxurious gift of love to myself. I keep them short enough to type and write but I always get fun colors, colored tips, sparkly gems, or a little glitter. This is probably a professional no-no but my main point is that nice nails make nice hands which always make a good impression. I think square nails are more professional but this one is obviously up to interpretation (as are all of these). I have fake nails but real nails look just as nice when taken care of. My girls love to see my newest design and the boys love to point out when my clothes and nails don't match. But most importantly, they make me feel pretty. And pretty = confidence.

Let's summarize: Comfort. Color. Cover. Coordinate. Confidence.

Shine on!

Why Do You Teach?

Addressed to the twitterverse and blogosphere at large:

@sywtt: In 140 characters or less: Why do you teach?

My answer: "Take away helpless feeling. Improve lives. Impart knowledge. Re-direct. Encourage. Elevate. Motivate. Support. Discipline. Enjoy!"

Visit Joel and post your answer or tweet it!

What Seeds Are You Feeding?

Darrell Scott, the father of Rachel Scott, a victim of the Columbine High School shootings in Littleton, Colorado, was invited to address the House Judiciary Committee's subcommittee.

What he said to our national leaders during this special session of Congress was painfully truthful. They were not prepared for what he was to say, nor was it received well. It needs to be heard by every parent, every teacher, every politician, every sociologist, every psychologist, and every so-called expert! These courageous words spoken by Darrell Scott are powerful, penetrating, and deeply personal. There is no doubt that God sent this man as a voice crying in the wilderness.

The following is a portion of the transcript:

"Since the dawn of creation there has been both good and evil in the hearts of men and women. We all contain the seeds of kindness or the seeds of violence. The death of my wonderful daughter, Rachel Joy Scott, and the deaths of that heroic teacher, and the other eleven children who died must not be in vain. Their blood cries out for answers.


The first recorded act of violence was when Cain slew his brother Abel out in the field. The villain was not the club he used. Neither was it the NCA, the National Club Association. The true killer was Cain, and the reason for the murder could only be found in Cain's heart. In the days that followed the Columbine tragedy, I was amazed at how quickly fingers began to be pointed at groups such as the NRA. I am not a member of the NRA. I am not a hunter. I do not even own a gun. I am not here to represent or defend the NRA - because I don't believe that they are responsible for my daughter's death. Therefore I do not believe that they need to be defended. If I believed they had anything to do with Rachel's murder I would be their strongest opponent.


I am here today to declare that Columbine was not just a tragedy -- it was a spiritual event that should be forcing us to look at where the real blame lies! Much of the blame lies here in this room. Much of the blame lies behind the pointing fingers of the accusers themselves. I wrote a poem just four nights ago that expresses my feelings best.. This was written way before I knew I would be speaking here today:


"Your laws ignore our deepest needs,
Your words are empty air.
You've stripped away our heritage,
You've outlawed simple prayer.

Now gunshots fill our classrooms,
And precious children die.
You seek for answers everywhere,
And ask the question "Why?"

You regulate restrictive laws,
Through legislative creed.
And yet you fail to understand,
That God is what we need!"
Men and women are three-part beings. We all consist of body, mind, and spirit. When we refuse to acknowledge a third part of our make-up, we create a void that allows evil, prejudice, and hatred to rush in and wreak havoc.

Spiritual presences were present within our educational systems for most of our nation's history. Many of our major colleges began as theological seminaries. This is a historical fact. What has happened to us as a nation? We have refused to honor God, and in so doing, we open the doors to hatred and violence. And when something as terrible as Columbine's tragedy occurs -- politicians immediately look for a scapegoat such as the NRA. They immediately seek to pass more restrictive laws that contribute to erode away our personal and private liberties. We do not need more restrictive laws. Eric and Dylan would not have been stopped by metal detectors. No amount of gun laws can stop someone who spends months planning this type of massacre. The real villain lies within our own hearts.

As my son Craig lay under that table in the school library and saw his two friends murdered before his very eyes, he did not hesitate to pray in school. I defy any law or politician to deny him that right! I challenge every young person in America , and around the world, to realize that on April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School prayer was brought back to our schools.

Do not let the many prayers offered by those students be in vain. Dare to move into the new millennium with a sacred disregard for legislation that violates your God-given right to communicate with Him. To those of you who would point your finger at the NRA -- I give to you a sincere challenge. Dare to examine your own heart before casting the first stone! My daughter's death will not be in vain! The young people of this country will not allow that to happen!"

Do what the media did not - - let the nation hear this man's speech.

4.26.2009

What Do Teachers Make?

Thanks to Dan Greene for pointing out the original version by slam poet Taylor Mali (Contains profanity)

This is nothing new to the teaching community but is something I would like to post so I know I'll never lost it.

A Tribute to All Teachers

The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life. One man decided to explain the problem with education. He argued: "What's a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?" He reminded the other dinner guests that it's true what they say about teachers: "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach."

To corroborate, he said to another guest: "You're a teacher, Susan," he said. "Be honest. What do you make?"

Susan, who had a reputation of honesty and frankness, replied, "You want to know what I make?"

I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.

I can make a C+ feel like a medal of honour and an A- feel like a slap in the face if the student did not do his or her very best.

You want to know what I make?

I make kids wonder. I make them question. I make them criticize.

I make them apologize and mean it.

I make them write.

I make them show all their work in math and hide it all on their drafts in English.

I elevate them to experience music and art and the joy in performance, so their lives are rich, full of kindness and culture, and they take pride in themselves and their accomplishments.

I make them understand that if you have the brains, then follow your heart ... and if someone ever tries to judge you by what you make, you pay them no attention.

You want to know what I make?

I make a difference."

COPYRIGHT 2003 Catholic New Times, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning

Boo-yah!

4.23.2009

Improving the Face of Education

I've been working on a state school improvement grant. Our school is already at improvement or restructuring status and could be headed toward state restructuring without major changes. It's really got me pumped to think about changing instructional practices, intense professional development, teaching to standards instead of covering chapters in a book, and etc. I know we are probably behind the times but this is the reality of small town America.

How did your school improve?

What helps your school meet AYP consistently?

What is working at your school?

How do you change/implement curriculum?

Would incorporating a math and reading coach in the high school help to improve their standardized test scores in those areas?

What kinds of professional development have changed your beliefs and methods of teaching?

I don't really know what questions to ask. I haven't started teaching yet and I'm working on a grant that would totally revamp the school, and I'm getting in on it early. This is a transitional time for me. I feel like this could really help the students and make a huge difference.

Of course, the most change would have to be in the teachers. If it was up to me, there are a handful I would just get rid of because of their negativity, resistance to change, and lack of teaching skill. But alas, that is why I am not an adminstrator. How do you make teachers want to care about students? (Ironic that this is a problem considering teachers work with students ALL.DAY.LONG) How do you make teachers want to improve themselves, want to change? We need better teachers but the chances of finding or hiring them are slim. So how do you improve what you already have?

I guess the point of this entire post is, how do you improve? Period.

Here are some previous posts with tips on school success: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

4.21.2009

Why Are Math Teachers Boring?

We went to a local university on a field trip today for Math Field Day. Surprisingly, I thought it was somewhat unorganized, considering it was put on by college math professors. (Or maybe it's just me who assumes logical mathematicians are organized?) The tests only lasted 15-20 minutes and they covered a wide variety of topics. But to me, the times were strange. Lunch was served from 11-1:30 but competitions lasted until 1. It was at least a 5 minute walk to eat from anywhere the competitions were held. The awards ceremony started at 1:45.

Now that I'm typing it out, it doesn't sound strange.

My entire point is that I think they should have made lunch one hour with no competitions so everyone could go eat together. I understand though that there would be a large mass of hungry high schoolers but I just didn't like the idea of the students wandering all over an unfamiliar campus searching for food.

And for the results....

We didn't win anything. But, we had NO discipline problems. Everyone stayed together. We ate lunch mostly together. No one got lost.

We had a good time. The kids were supportive of each other and ready to cheer- even though we never got the chance. FAIL

But the kids did what I expected. They've had a different math teacher every year for the past 4 years- and that's if they were lucky enough to have a teacher the entire school year. I expected a fun day and it was. Later, I was thinking I should have expected them to win. Positive expectations are SO important and I didn't even realize what I was doing. I was expecting them to behave positive but not expecting positive results. There's a difference.

I'm so thankful for blogging. I wouldn't reflect on things nearly as much if I wasn't always contemplating a new blog post.

So you might be wondering what this has to do with math teachers being boring. All the math teachers there were dressed so boring-ly. Yes, professional but in the most drab colors. The men wore shirts of oatmeal and navy blue dress pants. The woman had these weird oatmeal-color-family outfits with a hideous overcoat. And why don't math professors comb their hair?

During the award ceremony, they spoke so formally and monotone. There can only be one Dry Eyes extraordinaire people! No enthusiasm whatsoever from these lovers of math. I think their ties were tied a little two tight! (And if you think I'm being too hard on them, did I mention that they were my former professors, all except one who did not recognize me, even though I graduated less than 6 months ago? Thank you. I shall proceed.)

I was just thinking how much more enjoyable it would have been if they wore fun clothes and had been excited. They could have played some background music and pumped everyone up. I was almost ashamed to like math in their unenthusiastic presence. I'm all about breaking stereotypes so let me just go ahead and ask, "Why are math teachers boring?" Can't we too be colorful, energetic, dramatic, joyous, and interesting? Or does the love of numbers just overwhelm these other qualities?

But alas, it wasn't enthusiasm we received but more disorganization. The professors couldn't even find the right medals for the right competitions! Lists, people, it's all about the lists.

On the bright side, they gave away door prizes (which we also didn't win. It was rigged. We got there early and our cards must have been at the bottom of the box. Who gets punished for being early? Apparently, the bird.)

But, we had cool t-shirts. =)




Please notice the fake-clip-on tie above and the pocket protector complete with glasses and pens in the pocket.

Now please notice the following below, which nonchalantly hung on our bus. Greatness, pure greatness.


+ Bonus +
Go here and here for more information on how to not be a boring math teacher! And here for how to not look like one!

4.19.2009

What Great Teachers Do Differently

What Great Teachers Do Differently: Fourteen Things That Matter Most



1. Great teachers never forget that it is people, not programs, that determine the quality of a school.

2. Great teachers establish clear expectations at the start of the year and follow them consistently as the year progresses.

3. When a student misbehaves, great teachers have one goal: to keep that behavior from happening again.

4. Great teachers have high expectations for students, but even higher expectations for themselves.

5. Great teachers know who is the variable in the classroom: THEY are.

6. Great teachers create a positive atmosphere in their classrooms and schools.

7. Great teachers consistently filter out the negatives that don't matter and share a positive attitude.

8. Great teachers work hard to keep their relationships in good repair--to avoid personal hurt and to repair any possible damage.

9. Great teachers have the ability to ignore trivial disturbances and the ability to respond to inappropriate behavior without escalating the situation.

10. Great teachers have a plan and purpose for everything they do.

11. Before making any decision or attempting to bring about any change, great teachers ask themselves one central question: "What will the best people think?"

12. Great teachers treat everyone as if they were good.

13. Great teachers keep standardized testing in perspective.

14. Great teachers care about their students, and understand the power of emotion to jump-start change.

4.16.2009

Is Cute Acceptable for Teachers?

Update: Thanks to all those who commented and led me to write a post on dressing for success!

Does the way I dress affect my students?

I don't mean this in a professional manner.

If  I am dressing too "trendy", am I gaining or losing the respect of my students? I am young, female, and interested in fashion. I do try to be careful that I am not wearing things considered trendy. I already look young so I know it's important to be considered professional and for people to actually recognize that I am the teacher and not a student. But, I like to match. I like jewelry. I like cute shoes. I get my nails done.

I tend to get a lot of compliments on my wardrobe. I've just been thinking about what kind of affect it has on the students. On the one hand, it makes me easier to relate to and shows my personality. On the other hand, I don't want them to think I'm obsessed with fashion and only spending money on myself.

I want to be a good example and I want to show the students you can be professional without being boring. But sometimes I get the impression that maybe the other teachers kind of look down on me for this. Now it could very possibly be my own paranoia, but I get the feeling that other teachers don't take me seriously because of my age and clothing preferences.

Do I have to wear dorky teacher sweaters to be taken seriously? Do teachers have to be known for dressing frumpy? Is my clothing inappropriate without embroidered apples? I don't have any sweaters with kittens on them. I don't wear crocs. My pants are the appropriate length.

I think it's perfectly acceptable to dress "cute" as long as it's appropriate and professional.

What are some other points of view on this topic? Even if you're not a teacher or you never comment on these type of things, please tell me how you feel. I like the truth so give it!

Go here for tips on how to dress for success!

4.14.2009

A Cornucopia of Cash

(Isn't cornucopia a fun word?)


During my temporary employment of 'doing whatever needs to be done at school that no one else will do', I've had some experience in writing for grants. I decided to do a little bit of research and offer a resource on grants you can apply for as a classroom teacher. The amount of work required varies for each grant. Basically, they ask you to address certain issues. So address it, organize it, and make it look good. That's it. It's an extremely valuable payoff for the work involved.

Our middle school received a technology grant that put in every class a SMART board, five personal computers plus one that runs the smartboard, a very nice computer desk, a flat screen plasma tv, and a microphone/speaker setup. In every room. Outstanding, in my opinion.

Now with any kind of research you can go as in-depth as you want. I am just offering the intro.

Teacher's Count
For the Classroom- Art, Character Grants, General Grants, History/Social Studies, Innovation, Lifestyle, Literature/Language, Math, Music, Regional, Science/Technology, Continuing Education and Professional Development- Certification, General, History/Literature, Science/Technology, Travel

National Education Association (NEA) Foundation
The NEA Foundation supports a variety of efforts by teachers, education support professionals, and higher education faculty and staff to improve student learning in the nation's public schools, colleges, and universities.

Learning & Leadership Grants: provide opportunities for teachers, education support professionals, and higher education faculty and staff to engage in high-quality professional development and lead their colleagues in professional growth. The grant amount is $2,000 for individuals and $5,000 for groups engaged in collegial study. Application deadlines are February 1, June 1, and October 15.

Student Achievement Grants: provide $5,000 to improve the academic achievement of students by engaging in critical thinking and problem solving that deepen knowledge of standards-based subject matter. The work should also improve students' habits of inquiry, self-directed learning, and critical reflection. (These grants replace the Foundation's Innovation Grants program, which has been discontinued.) Application deadlines are February 1, June 1, and October 15.

International Reading Association
The World's Leading Organization of Literacy Professionals
More than 40 awards and grants are available to honor educators, authors, and others involved in reading and literacy. Past recipients, guidelines, and application forms can be found on the individual award or grant page.

Fund for Teachers
Fund for Teachers' grants are awarded to teachers work-ing with students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. Teachers submit proposals detailing how their fellowship will make them a better teacher and how their improved skills are to be implemented in the classroom, benefiting students, curricula and school. Teachers are awarded based on application quality and merit as judged by a committee. und for Teachers is dedicated to fostering opportunities that bring fresh perspective, expertise and broad world knowledge into classrooms. They promote innovation. Some of the projects their fellows have pursued include:
exploring Hawaii's active volcanoes, studying Islam through Morocco's political, social and economic development, conducting research on the chemical impact of Puerto Rico's environment, participating in a hands-on study of Beluga whales, trekking across Laos learning about the Hmong culture, and sharpening Spanish skills in Guatemala. To date, more than 3,500 teachers from across the United States have studied and traveled in 110 countries on all seven continents.

Target
Field Trip Grants
Teachers can apply for one of 5,000 grants of up to $800.

Arts Grant
Target supports nonprofit projects, programs and organizations around the country.

Early Childhood Reading Grants
Available to programs that encourage children (from birth to age 9) to read with their families.

Take Charge of Education®
Target has donated more than $200 million to schools through Take Charge of Education. Help your school raise even more money with our easy-to-use fundraising tools.

Multicultural Classroom Materials
Celebrate the diverse cultures and rich traditions that make up our world

School Technology Resources and Real Curriculum
Each individual teacher awarded this grant will receive a new hand-held video microscope (or microscopes) with software for PC to take still pictures, video, time lapse movies, etc., and an accompanying curriculum binder with lessons designed to meet both state and national science standards. The top 3 applicants will receive 4 additional microscopes, making a total of 5 for their classrooms. Thirty video microscopes will be awarded in all to 18 individuals. This is a competitive grant based on the quality and value of the applicants' intended use. We are looking for creative, innovative and educationally valuable uses of hand-held video microscopes. Proposal Deadline:4/30/09

Project Learning Tree
GreenWorks! grants engage Project Learning Tree educators and their students with their local community in "learning-by-doing" environmental projects. Student leadership, service-learning, and community participation are the cornerstones to GreenWorks! projects. These grassroots action projects enable schools and youth organizations across the country to make a positive impact on their communities. Proposal Deadline:4/30/09 Average Amount:$250.00 - $5,000.00

Pay It Forward Mini-Grants
Pay It Forward Mini-Grants of up to $500 are designed to fund one-time-only service-oriented projects identified by youth as activities they would like to perform to benefit their school, neighborhood, or greater community. To be considered in the grant making process, projects must contain a "pay it forward" focus -- that is, they must be based on the concept of one person doing a favor for others, who in turn do favors for others, with the results growing exponentially. Grant applications are reviewed and considered by a selection committee three times a year.

Grants Program for 7-12 Science & Math Education
Toshiba America Foundation's grant program for 7-12 science and math education is intended to encourage projects designed to improve teaching and learning in science and math. The Foundation favors classroom projects developed by individual teachers or teams of teachers. Grant Applications can be downloaded from the Foundation's Web site.

Mr. Holland's Opus
The Melody program, one of three grant programs administered by http://www.mhopus.org/award.htm. The Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation, provides musical instruments and instrument repairs to K-12 school music programs that have no other source of financing for musical instruments and materials. The program does not offer cash grants; grants of instruments or repairs typically range between $500 and $5,000.

The Mockingbird Foundation
The Mockingbird Foundation, which "generates charitable proceeds from Phish fandom," offers grants for programs and projects designed to support and improve music education. MFI funding focuses on providing for the basic needs of musical instruction, as well as on projects that foster creative expression. Grants range in size from $50.00 to $5,000.00. Anyone interested in submitting a grant proposal should first send a 1-2 page letter of inquiry.

Forensics in the Classroom
Court TV, as part of its education partnership with the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, offers several free forensics-based science units for high school students -- and one for middle school students. In order to make the curriculum as useful to teachers as possible, Court TV conducts quarterly surveys about the units. Teachers who complete a survey are eligible for one of Court TV's $1000 grants. The grants, awarded directly to teachers, can be used for "student consumables or resources related to the teaching of the science curriculum."

Hopefully I've covered a pretty good variety but know there is a ton of information out there. You will probably find a lot of broken links or random pages. It will take some sorting but come on people, where else can you get FREE money!

Also check out -Grants.gov- grants for everything ever in life. Ever!

Did I miss anything?

4.13.2009

Discernment: A Unique Teaching Concept

Steve Sampson came to my church the other night. He is a very unique speaker. He has a very, very dry sense of humor, which I find hysterical. The Holy Spirit works through him and tells him people and things to pray for. It happens in various ways. He'll say things like "I'm seeing someone named Jeff...there's a couple here who have been married for 31 or 31 1/2 years...someone with an extreme case of acid reflux...someone with throat problems...someone who's had a birthday in the past month." He will pray for them or give them a specific message of what's going on, what's going to happen, what they need to do, etc. It's so specific and unique, with a sprinkle of hilariousness. I enjoy it so much!

I was just thinking to myself...how amazing would it be if the Holy Spirit worked through me that way with teaching? It would be ridiculous. Maybe I would say things like "Someone in the third row doesn't understand fractions...There's a girl here who didn't get #14...Someone with brown hair didn't finish their homework last night." It would make life much simpler to have that discernment. Instead of wasting time trying to figure out if everyone really understands the material, I could skip right to addressing the problem. Without embarrassing students or myself, I could easily review and reteach.

If the Lord is powerful enough to heal people through discernment like Steve Sampson has, I believe He can also give discernment to me to make me an effective teacher. God is a God of order and He has given me everything I need to succeed. (Ha ha a rhyme!) He wants me to have abundant life and I believe that includes a successful career with unique strategies. I want to be set apart as a teacher and I think having that kind of discernment and hearing from God so clearly would definitely be...different.

And I'm okay with different. =)

Hearing the Holy Spirit is the greatest adventure known to man. Learn more.

Related Articles:
Changing the Culture: What Can I Affect?
Key to Ignition

4.09.2009

Serial Success: The Final 6


The fourth and final episode of Serial Success! [Day 8 31DBBB: Interlink Your Older Blog Posts]

1. Take random pictures.
This goes back to keeping records of your students. Random pictures are fun and can be easily incorporated into your blog, your classroom decorations, yearbook, or a school/parent newsletter. Students love attention and what better way to focus attention than by gazing at yourself? Take pictures during Homecoming week, at sporting events, assemblies, field trips or when you do super cool projects in the classroom. A teacher that I student taught with took a picture of each class and had an 8x10 printed out. Then she hung them all in the classroom. Students loved staring at themselves, considering they had forgotten what they and everyone sitting next to them looked like. Save these for posterity. Or just for remembering how cool you are.

2. Rearrange periodically.
Move your desk. Hang up new decorations. Put out new reading material. Push desks together or move them apart. Add some color. Rotate supplies. Do this for your own sanity. You spend all day, every day in this room. Your students spend time in this room every day. For the safety of everyone involved, spice it up! Life is too short for boring.

3. Show school spirit.
Anyone can wear a school t-shirt or hang up a sports schedule in their classroom. Showing school spirit is an attitude. The most important ingredient is that you care about students. Support them. Create a pep club if you don't have one. A math teacher I worked with started a math pep club. They designed a t-shirt with some funny math joke and wore them to the homecoming football game. That's it. The students LOVED it. I've seen in other schools where students decorate their lockers with cutouts for whatever clubs they're involved in. Offer bonus points if students come to a game or event and you see them there. Students will do anything for bonus points. Showing students you care about them and the school makes it a happier place to be.

4. No degrading
This one gets kind of messy with me. It should be simple so let me explain. As a teacher, you should NEVER speak disrespectfully of any teacher, students, faculty, staff, administrator, or employee of the school in front of your students. You immediately lose integrity with the students. They may think you're funny or cool at the time, but they don't really know where you stand. If you hate the place you work, why do you continue to work there? It sends a mixed message to the students. What's hard for me is, because I'm young, the students sometimes forget I'm a teacher. They complain to me about other teachers and how they're treated and their homework policies and so on. It's hard for me to hide my feelings and sometimes I am angry at the other teachers, but I can't show that. I try to take the focus off the teacher and put it on the student- what could you do differently? What are you doing wrong? How can you help the situation? How can I help you do better? Things like that. I want my students to feel like they are surrounded by people who care about them, support them, and want the best for them...whether it's true or not. I can use my influence to help students see things through a positive light even when it's a negative situation.

5. Current Events
One of my high school teachers would read the headlines on MSN when he turned his computer on and mention the ones that related to us in class. It was a government class so that wasn't hard to do but I think it's important. Math can be incorporated easily too- anything to do with money, architecture, sports statistics, etc. A lot of what students hear is trash so if you can speak truth about any subject, even current events, it could change their perspective. Relating your subject to the real world makes class more interesting, more relevant, and more believable.

6. Be accessible to students.
As I mentioned in another post, there are tons of ways to relate to kids outside of school. The ethics are debatable but you need to be accessible in some form. Whether it's an e-mail address, blog, or phone number, it's important for students to see you as a source of help. If you offer after school tutoring, invite them. (Or offer bonus points for coming) Tell the students your planning period so they can come for homework help. The odds are, not very many students will seek you out. But it could make a HUGE difference for the few students who actually need it. Students need to know you're there for them. Commit.

That wraps up my 6.6.6.6 tips and tricks. Thanks to everyone who reads!

Read the beginning of the series:
Serial Success: 6 Strategies for School
Serial Success: 6 More Strategies
Serial Success: A 6let of Strategies

4.08.2009

Serial Success: A 6let of Strategies


The third installment of my first blog series, Serial Success



1. The Name Game
This is a fantastical idea for teachers who don't know their students' names yet. Instead of the normal roll call or go around the room and tell us your name, you make a game out of it. The first student says their name. The second name says the first student's name and then their name. The third student says the first and second student's name and then their own. And so on...the names are repeated so often that everyone, including you will know everyone's name by the end of the game. Of course, the ultimate challenge is if you can remember ALL the names. There is something powerful about calling someone by name, so the sooner you learn it, the better. This is just one example. There's a ton of ways and games you could create in order to accomplish the same goal. Get creative.

2. Daily Poll
This is something I encountered in college and really enjoyed. Our professor used this as a way of attendance but I think it's just a good time. He had a question written on a clipboard that he passed around the room. We had to write our name and an answer to the question. No answers could be repeated and your answers had to be legit [props to MC Hammer]. After everyone finished he would look at and read the really funny or creative answers or the ones that were wrong. It was a fun way to make class go by faster. Some examples of questions were "What's your favorite Disney movie?" (and it HAD to be Disney) "If you could be any character from a book, who would it be?" "What's your favorite mode of transportation?" (Remember, no answers could be repeated) These are a great way to test the imaginations of your students.

3. Candy
Without getting into the debate of internal vs. external motivators, candy is just a fun surprise. A teacher I had in high school had a jar of candy and randomly would offer it to the class. For no reason. And not often enough that we could expect it. That was the beauty of it. No strings attached. Everyone likes a little surprise chocolate.


4. Electric Pencil Sharpener
While I am pretty sure this goes without saying, an electric pencil sharpener will save your life. There is nothing worse than someone sawing away at the pencil sharpener while you're trying to speak. Or maybe it's just a pet peeve. But the regular kind always break and the electric ones are just easier to deal with. And quicker.

5. Acknowledge Student Achievements
This can be done in a variety of ways. You could have a Star of the Day, Student of the Week, Student of the Month, etc. Put their picture in your school newspaper, department newsletter, a note to parents, on the school website, on your class website, in the classroom, in the hallway, etc. Take a picture, print out a certificate, give them a sash or a crown (lol), give them a toy trophy or medal, etc. Also, make sure to acknowledge achievements outside of academics. If they're in the newspaper or won some other award, announce it in your class as well. Hang up articles, photos, and certificates that show your students hard work. Again, students want to be noticed. This really creates a positive atmosphere in your classroom and shows your high expectations.

6. Don't Play Favorites
This is important. For the majority of classes, your students have been going to school together for a significant amount of time. They know who the teacher's pet will be, who gets to run all the errands, who the slackers are, who the good readers are, and who always knows the answer. Break up the stereotypes, people! What I've seen the most is writing everyone's name on a stick and drawing sticks. Another version is writing everyone's name on a card and putting them on a key ring so you can flip back and forth. I see this mostly in the elementary and middle school but it needs to be implemented in the high school. It ensures the randomness and gives other students a chance. Use it to decide who to call on, how to pick partners, who to send on errands, and more. It's fun. It's fair. And it's handy-dandy [props to Steve].


Can't stop at 666...so come back!

4.07.2009

Serial Success: 6 More Strategies


This is the second installment of my series, Serial Success: 6 Strategies for School, tips to use and think about in teaching.


1. Binders
We've all seen this done a dozen different ways (alliteration makes my heart smile) but it's so effective! It's a great way to teach students to be organized and makes your life easier. I'm just going to give you my take on it, but use your imagination to take it wherever you like! 3-ring binder, preferably 2 inch width. Page dividers. Label as Notes, Handouts, Homework, Graded Work. Loose-leaf paper. College or wide-ruled, go wild! Now there is a place for everything and everything in it's place. Students love to customize, accessorize, and put their name on everything in sight.
+ Bonus +

2. Binder Grading
Obviously, you won't want to carry around 30 binders per class to take home and grade. A good time to grade theses is during a test (or whatever you call your assessment) when students are occupied and not using their binders. One college professor I had always had a deck of cards and would have a student cut the deck. If the card was a 10 or higher, the binders were graded that day. You could also roll dice, flip a coin, etc. (Also a great tie in to probability.) Grading can be as simple as checking for all appropriate work/assignment in each section. Mark the end of each section with the date so you know where to begin the next time you grade.

3. Extra Credit for Early Assignments
There are a ton of ways to offer extra credit. Some examples I've seen in the past are for brining in boxes of kleenex, box tops, cleaning overhead transparencies, buying book covers, technology points from buying calculators, and returning important papers. So. Extra credit is a huge motivation for students. But offering extra credit for assignments that are turned in early has even more benefits than the aforementioned. You're rewarding students for being organized and efficient, it's an incentive to be organized and efficient, and you're teaching them important job skills: organization and efficiency! Plus, you can grade theirs sooner.


4. Birthday Surprises
Students love attention. They need to know that they are valuable. The popular thing at my high school to do for birthdays is buy balloons from the FCCLA club. You could write a message on the card and balloons would be delivered to the student at the end of the day. Of course, the pretty people had more than everyone else but still, people noticed you on your birthday. That's important. I was always disappointed because my birthday is May 28th. We were never in school on that day and if we were it was the last day, early dismissal, report card day, etc. Every year I hoped someone, some amazing friend, would remember and buy me balloons before school ended. They never did. I'm not bitter. One teacher asked students at the beginning of the year what their favorite candy bar was and then bought it for them on their birthday. This one is so easy! It could be candy, pencil, pen, card, sticker, stamp, anything to show you remember and care that it is their special day. And please, don't leave the summer kids out. They can't help it their mother's picked an inconvenient day of birth.

5. Keep Records of Each Student
You never know where each student may go in life and when they may return. Whenever I hear of my students, I want to remember them and acknowledge our 180 days together. This is as simple as taking a class photo and having all students sign the back. [Insert scrapbooking plug] These are great memories for you as well as the students who may re-enter your life. Also, you'll have their siblings, friends, neighbors, cousins, and eventually their children. =) Keep track of your generations of teaching.

6. Magnetic Alphabet
This is not a joke my friend, I promise you. You can get these for $1 and students will have endless fun. Endless! They love to spell out their names, their nicknames, the year they graduate, their class, etc. [See #1] Students can't resist bright, colorful objects that stick to things regardless of age, sex, race, or religion. Beware: you may have to buy two sets.

$2 = Endless fun x 2

Stay tuned for another sixlet!

4.06.2009

Serial Success: 6 Strategies for School

This is the first installment of a new series of teaching tips that I've written during my high school, community college, and university experience. I'm sure some of these tips would help out teachers in online colleges as well. These are just ideas, not proven successful tips, but hopefully they will inspire you to create your own or to just look at things through a different perspective. [Day 2 of 31DBBB Challenge: Write a List Post]

1. Have a detailed class and homework schedule.
While this is seen more in the college arena, I think it is something that definitely should be adapted to high school. If nothing else, it prepares students for college (that is part of our job I'm assuming?) I had a teacher in high school who gave a monthly calendar. For each day it showed what section we would be covering and the corresponding homework assignments. She graded homework folders at the end of a chapter or month. This was convenient for students who wanted to work ahead, who fell behind, or who were absent. We always knew what was expected. If something happened in class that messed up our schedule, we just adjusted accordingly. Students crave structure and want to know what's going on. So tell them.

2. Require students to take notes.
I love to give handouts (especially if teaching by powerpoint). It is incredibly simpler for students to fill in the blanks or show the work instead of racing to scribble down everything you write. Students appreciate it, class runs smoother, and it's helpful for substitutes as well. It's a type of formative assessment. It makes creating study guides so easy it's almost a sin. Almost. Studies show that students who do the work, learn. So make them do work!

3. Give short quizzes based on notes.
These make great bell-ringers and require very little thought. Take 2-3 short examples, definitions, theorems, etc from the previous days notes and give a quiz. Allow students to use their notes. This is a great way to prepare students for connecting new concepts to prior knowledge. It's an easy grade for those who take notes and another incentive to actually complete the notes. Easy to grade, formative and self-assessing, it helps improve students' grades. Success!

4. Go over ALL homework questions.
For clarity, I mean all parts of the assignment that students did not understand, not every single problem assigned. I cannot tell you how frustrating it was for me as a paying student in college to have professors who would only answer a few questions before moving on to new material. Obviously they have much less time to work with students than we do in the high school, but still. My view is don't assign what you can't/won't explain. You assign homework for a purpose, so explain it. Don't leave them hanging! If they have questions on every single problem, obviously, you have missed something. Don't blame the students for not learning if you aren't teaching. Is it more important to rush through a predetermined amount of material or for students to have a solid understanding of all material covered?

5. Grade homework as it's turned in.
Another college pet peeve- professors who rarely, if ever, return graded homework. I saw this mostly in the education program. Here we are, future teachers learning about how important self-assessment is and how to be consistent with our grading, and our own teachers don't model it. Even if you just grade it based on completion, at least students have something to show for their hard work and you don't have mountains of paperwork covering your desk. Students need to know how they're doing and they want to know now, not at the end of the semester. How can they correct mistakes they don't know they're making?

6. Give study guides for tests.
This is incredibly important for your first year students (which you will have every year, right?). Students have no idea what to expect from you and therefore, no idea what to study. It's also very helpful if you give page numbers of the material covered as well as how many points each problem is worth. Plus, students are more likely to take a study guide home to study rather than their book or notes. Simplicity, people.

Stay tuned for six more!

Pro Blog It

So. I am participating in 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Challenge. It's being held at ProBlogger by @problogger. It only has 9200 participants so it's just a small, intimate gathering of close friends.

But I digress.

The first assignment is to write an elevator pitch for my blog.

First, I just want to say...I am not obsessed with getting people to read my blog. I am not going to spend every waking moment of my life writing posts, commenting on other blogs, or twittering to my hearts content. (That last one may be a lie) Honestly, I do have a life. And a job. And without those, what would I write about? On the other hand, I'm all about improving myself and making progress in my own life. So. I want to improve my blog and make it better for the 2 people who do read it and for the future people who may want to.

And now back to regularly scheduled writing...

So. I already have my "tagline". [See above] "The positives and negatives of teaching high school math". Let us analyze.

1. Word play
Fun. Always a winner. Catchy. Actually relates to math.

2. Truth
I actually tell what I do. Best policy. Defining.

3. Short
Easy to remember.

So. A+ on that. But now, I need something longer. Something like 100-150 words that solve a problem or need, define my audience, is clear, is short, stands out, intrigues, is energetic but not hyped, might be a question, and is easy to expand on in real-life conversation.

No problem. I write those in my sleep.

Ready, set, go! Ok, my ideal audience is other teachers or people who might be interested in teaching. Not necessarily just school teachers either. What problem or need am I solving? I think my tagline says it pretty well. I want to show the positives and negatives of teaching. Balance. There's too many that do one or the other and not both. Also, I want to help other teachers by offering lesson plans, ideas, tip, etc. That's what I like to read and so that's what I would like to offer. And I wanna be funny. I love making people laugh. Now can I think of an intriguing question? Hmm.

Miss Cal.Q.L8 shares the up, downs, and all-a-rounds of teaching. From serious to silly, this blog offers help, hope, and happiness to the teacher in all of us. It's practical and inspirational. From the miscalculations of math to the miscalculations in life, there are tips and tricks for everything. Read it to learn, laugh, and like math. How can you improve your teaching skills? Learn from one 'miscalculation' at a time.


So I like series of words, analogies, and alliterations. Any other suggestions?