I am a good teacher because...

I googled teacher meme's and so I stole this one from Tim Fredrick who stole it from Nancy. I don't know these people but hey, give credit where credit is due!

I am a good teacher because . . . I have a gift for easily explaining things, I love being part of my students' lives, and I take time to learn about and know my students personally.

If I weren’t a teacher, I would be . . . an office manager. I am all about analyzing, organizing, and efficiency. I love office work, data entry, and computers. But I do hate answering phones.

My teaching style is . . . .delegator or personal model. I like to explain, give a few examples, then let students comment and work on examples. I am no mathematical expert but I'm working on incorporating more creative projects and cooperative learning.

My classroom is . . . non-existent at the moment. But I hope for it to be colorful and interesting. It's also my second home and a place where students can relax, laugh, and feel safe.

My lesson plans are . . . simple. I like clean cut examples and I write notes as if I was talking to the students. I don't like formal language.

One of my teaching goals is . . . to be the best teacher in the world! On a serious note, my goal is for all of my students to pass my class with a better grade than they had in their last math course.

The toughest part of teaching is . . . is not having enough time and resources to devote fully to each class. The classroom could be so much more fun and effective is money, equipment, and time weren't so limited.

The toughest part of teaching is . . . is trying to truly teach the students a good foundation for math while aligning to standards and teaching to multiple nonhelpful standardized tests. (I liked this one so I did it twice!)

The thing I love most about teaching is . . . the positive comments and hugs from students. I love being a part of their life! I really enjoy giving students advice about life and developing character more than I care about math grades.

A common misconception about teaching is . . . that it's easy. The hours and vacation are great but it takes more than a warm body. There are too many negative people who don't even like students or care about teaching in the school system. If you want to be a teacher, you should geniunely care about the students and improving their lives as well as improving yourself.

The most important thing I’ve learned since I started teaching is . . . teaching is a gift and I have it.


Are You For Real?

This my huge, expensive, awe-inspiring, smack your grandmama, heart beat of my life piece of advice:


You have got to, must always, never forget, always remember to be real with your students

I cannot explain the success I have had with students by just being real. Break out of the education malarky and teacher speak and all that formal nonsense. We are people just like the students are- why do we ever pretend to be anything else

It really breaks up the routine to joke with the students, even mimic how they talk, or to talk about yourself. The littlest comments can make a difference. Commenting that you're hungry, on the TV show you watched last night, the article you read online, the song that's stuck in your head- it all sheds a little bit of light into who you are, what you're really like outside the classroom.  Students forget teachers are real because we forget to show them

For example, today I subbed for fourth grade. Ironically, I've worked with every grade level in the school except them. None of these students were familiar to me. As I took attendance, I noticed the last name of one student was the same as one of my middle school tutoring students. I asked if they were related, and they were. This started all the other kids off on asking me if I knew someone they were related too. Students just want to be noticed. When one girl asked me if I knew her brother, I said yes. "He's mean," she said. I told her I thought he was a very nice young man. For the rest of the day, she wanted to be near me. She sat next to me, laid her head on my shoulder, looked to me for my reaction about everything, even did not want to leave for her speech class, because she wanted to be with me. 

A lot of my colleagues think the kids like me because I'm young. I beg to differ. I think in 10-20 years, the students will still like me because I choose to share my life with them. I show interest in their lives. Students want to feel valued. When I choose to share the details of my life, I show that I value them and their opinion. They are worth sharing my life with. Relating to students is a choice- it doesn't go away with time or age. 

Giving students a piece of my life not only helps me relate to them but it helps them relate to me. A strong connection is connected at both ends. Just as I want their undivided attention, they expect that in return from me.

Let me present to you two life-changing pieces of advice:

1. Inside Jokes

These two will go such a long way in building relationship and gaining the respect of your students. No matter how lame the joke is, the student will bring it up continuously until you make a new one. These are easy to create. To find, be observant. Catch them in the hallway, at lunch, outside of school, at a game, anywhere, even in your class, and make a comment about it. Then bring it up occasionally. Or vice versa. If they catch you doing something silly, even if you feel embarrassed, bring it up, laugh at yourself. Everyone loves to laugh. i.e. I have a student who is in a gospel rap group and I am constantly encouraging him to sing for the class. He won't. Anytime we have to read something out loud, I'll call on him to read and then add in the punch line..."Or would you rather rap for us?" or "Could you sing that a little louder?" The class laughs and he knows I remember.

2. Nicknames

This one is the same principle. Be observant. Comment. Repeat. Success. i.e. One of my students told me about a boy that another student liked and told me to call her by his name. So when no one else could hear me, I would call her by the boy's name and she would act upset but it always ended in a smile. Maybe that's not a great example. But this girl is known for having a lot of attitude and talking back and she's the type I can give crap to and it works. That's sort of another piece of advice: know your students. You have got to be careful about people's feelings, students and otherwise. You need to know the teachers you can joke with, the students you can tease, who you can be sarcastic with, and so on. 

So to sum it all up, be observant. Care. Laugh. Be yourself. Share life. 

For real.


I've spoken before about how I know 100% that I am in the place I need to be.

I would like to honor the one who made it happen for me.

To all teachers out there, you should be jealous of me. I'm not even a first year teacher and I have been blessed beyond measure. My administrators told me that if it was up to them alone, they wouldn't even post the job opening, they would just offer it to me.

I told them I wanted a SMART board, and they made it happen.

They're already sending me to Professional Development, and I don't even work there yet.

They've allowed me to choose what classes I want to teach. And I got to pick out my own textbooks.

They're already ordering the supplies and things I've requested.

The guidance counselor keeps me updated on my class size and I am able to work with her to decide who should be moved, kept, etc.

My plan period is the hour before lunch. + Bonus +

The administration is recommending that the school board hire me pending my certification in April.

And the students....I can't even explain to you the favor I've found with them. I am literally bombarded with hugs and hello's no matter where I go.

They remember the outfits I wear. They constantly compliment me on my shoes, shirts, pants, hair, jewelry, nails, pretty much my entire everything.

When they find out that I'm their the sub, the following are shouted in the halls....

"Yes! Our teacher isn't here and we have a substitute! And it's the cool one!"

"You mean it's a 12:00 day and our teacher isn't here and you're our sub? This is the best day ever!"

"We get to play? You're the best teacher EVER!"

"I actually understand it when you teach me."

Honestly, I have so many students who love to joke with me, tell me stories, and just want to be near me. I love talking to them, teasing them, and just being real with them. They brighten my day, make me laugh, and love me. The least I can do is return the favor.

This is what it's like to be in the Lord's will for your life. I've spent my whole life preparing for this and I'm reaping the rewards before I've even started to sow. Obedience brings blessing. Four years of college and thousands of dollars are already paying off. The Lord brought me here. He paved the way, escorted me down it, stood beside me when I wanted to run, waited while I caught up, and cheered me over the finish line.

The finish line is just the beginning. I'm at the end of what I need and at the beginning of what I need to give.

I would never have made it without Him. Everything I have is because He valued me enough to give it. I don't deserve this. I could never be a good enough teacher to deserve it. I can't even begin to do this without Him. He's given me the gift, the opportunity, and the reward.

All I have to do is teach.

What Your Students Really Want

During one of my sub days, I had a class full of terrors. Freshmen boys. They threw paper wads, threw things out the window, made duct tape balls, threw toilet paper, kicked each other, the works. The teacher had left an assignment that they were definitely not caring about and not even willing to attempt. I was trying to think of a way to distract them or at least take up some of the period. It was 4th hour which is our longest period, over an hour long, and right before lunch. Yes, you're right, a dream come true. So I asked the students if they could change anything about our school, what would it be? I thought their answers were very interesting and wanted to share their "creative thinking".

In no particular order, what would you change about this school?

Daily Points
Students complained that they had low grades due to losing their daily points every day. To me, daily points is logical to help control behavior. In their opinion, they are being punished twice for the same mistake. If it doesn't work, why are we still doing it?

Lower Grading Scale
During my entire school career the grading score was universally known as A 90-100, B 80-89, C 70-79, D 60-69, and 60 or below was failing. Now the current grading scale is A 93-100, B 85-92, C 77-84, D 70-77, and failing is 70 and below. A lot of the boys (slackers) said that they could be passing if it wasn't for the higher grading scales. Now obviously, teachers want students to strive for more than just passing. But with all of the other standardized testing and NCLB legislation, it seems like we are making it even harder on ourselves and our students. On the other hand, it does raise the bar which challenges students and pushes them to work harder to still achieve passing status. Also, in the long run, students who are used to earning an A with a 93 in high school may have it a little easier in college where an A is back to 90.

Lowering Grades Due to Absence
This is a new policy where students have a percentage of their final grade deducted according to how many absences they have. If a student is on the line between pass/fail and has any absences, it could cost them their grade. I see the school's thinking on this, encouraging attendance. Obviously students aren't learning if they aren't showing up. I also think the students are whining because the policy is new. I do think there should be some altering to how they figure these percentages. But every rule will cut out someone, and though you feel bad for them, the line has to be drawn. Don't complain about being cut out when you live right next to where the scissors cut. Move!

After clarifying that better teachers did not mean "prettier" or "gives less work", the students explained what they really meant. They complained that teachers didn't really teach, they just "show". Teachers worked one example on the board and assigned work but never really taught the students the how and why. Score one for the students- I agree. Sad, but true. Sad, but glad the kids are at least smart enough to spot it. Also, the students want teachers who will act more like students- in teacher speak- relate. Successful teaching is based on your relationship with each student - not with your content.

Surprisingly, the kids didn't want to change the food, they wanted more of it! They want the option to be able to buy extra portions of whatever is on the tray. They're logic is that if they are willing to pay for it, why shouldn't the school be willing to supply it? Again, I agree. Students have to sign the lunch list so that the cafeteria ladies can get an approximate count. Why not make the option available for them to check extra portions? I could see their being some trouble in the logistics of it, but it's worth considering. Also, students wanted more drink options. They know that soda is not an option due to the scare of childhood obesity, but want the option of bottled water or juice. Some things just don't go with milk. Enough said.

Football Team
Our school is too small for a football team and would have to travel extensively in order to play at our level. I do think that we are missing a large part of the student body who would otherwise be involved. It's not fair, but this school's focus is largely on basketball. No one would want to take money away from those teams to fund a football team. Plus, we don't have a field! I wish for their sakes we could make this happen, it opens up a whole new response to school spirit, but chances are slim to none.

Gym Equipment
The students complain (again, no way!) that the equipment we have sucks. It's true. Very little variety in P.E. Games like one-bounce, dodgeball, whiffle ball, mat ball, basketball, and flag football are about all you'll ever see. But, ironicly, I actually helped research and write for the Carol M. White Physical Education Grant which would actually fund a fitness center, new equipment, and new curriculum. And with the Lord's favor, I believe we will get it!

All in all, I was impressed with the kids thinking. But then depressed at how little we actually listen. We are here to serve the kids and improve their lives, yet we rarely ever ask what would help them the most! I wish it was within my power to change these things but at least awareness is a step in the right direction.



Becoming the Best Teacher in the World: Tips

(The short version)

The First Days of School
-Harry and Rosemary Wong

3 Characteristics of an Effective Teacher:
1. Positive Expectations
2. Classroom Management
3. Mastery Teaching

You are the only person on the face of the earth who can use your abilities. It is an awesome responsibility.

Good habits are easy to develop. Bad habits are difficult to break.

Successful people MAKE themselves do the things that unsuccessful people will not do.

Intersperse questions throughout all class activities.

It is the teacher who makes the difference in a classroom.

There is but one correlation with success, and that is ATTITUDE.

Success involves converting people to your way of feeling. Give your students more than they expect, and you will get back more than you ever expected.

Each child is living the only life he has- the only one he will ever have. The lease we can do is not diminish it.

The two worst things a parent can give a young person are money and wheels. The two most important things a parent can give a child are roots and wings.

Celebrate the First Day of School.

You do not get a second chance at a first impression.

The key is looking professional, not just looking good. Your dress and your behavior are what young people will take to be appropriate.

Every time you act, you validate who you are.

Dress for:
1. Respect
2. Credibility
3. Acceptance
4. Authority

Don't dress where you are; dress where you want to be.

One inviting act can make a positive difference even if everything else is disinviting.

Opportunities are everywhere, but little happens until invitations are sent, received, and acted on.

5 Significant Concepts
1. Name
2. Please
3. Thank you
4. Smile
5. Love

Add please and thank you to papers.

Well-Managed Classroom
1. Student Involvement
2. Students know what is expected
3. No wasted time, confusion, or disruption
4. Work-oriented but relaxed environment

Always be prepared and ready to go.

Seating Arrangement:
All chairs face forward.
Keep traffic areas clear.
Test equipment before using it.
Rotate materials on shelves.
Don't place loose materials near door.
Don't place teacher's desk near door.
Place desk where you can easily reach students.

Teacher Prep:
Letter of Materials Needed
Seating Chart
Have basic materials on hand.
Find and organize containers.
Keep valuables in safe location.
Have emergency materials.

Whether you like it or not, people will talk about you.

Send a letter home to parents:
1. Expectations
2. Important Dates
3. School Supplies

Send a letter to students:
1. Welcome
2. Bio
3. Contact Info
4. School Supplies
5. Expectations

Post on Classroom Door:
1. My name
2. Room #
3. Period
4. Subject
5. Welcome

Stand up when you address the class.
Don't speak loudly, use tone.
Use nonverbal language.
Don't let misbehavior go unchallenged.

IMPORTANT First Words: Name and Expectations
"You will..."

Have a spot ready with schedule, rules, procedures, calendar, and welcome.

Post assignment before students walk in.

Assign seating before they sit down.

Post assignments daily and consistently.

YOU start the class, not the bell.

Do not take roll at the beginning of class. Start class with an assignment, then take roll quickly and quietly.

If you do not have a plan, you're planning to fail.

Discipline Plan:
1. Expected Behaviors
2. Consequences
3. Rewards

The function of a rule is to prevent or encourage behavior by clearly stating student expectations.

No more than five specific rules.

Rules gives students a sense of security.

Post your consequences.

Effective teachers manage with procedures.

Teaching Procedures:
1. Explain
2. Rehearse
3. Reinforce

Give praise for specific deeds. Students want to be noticed.

Every time you speak while the class is working, you interrupt the class.

Students risk failure because of the lack of STRUCTURE.

What Americans have become is not less intelligent, but less interested in being educated.

Students must work to learn.

Academic Learning Time:
1. Did the students learn what you wanted them to?
2. Can you show that they learned it?

The person who does the work is the ONLY one who learns.

The only limitations are those you place on yourselves and those you allow other people to place on you.

Effective teachers:
1. Must have an undying believe that every student can and has the ability to learn.
2. Must persevere.

Creating an Effective Assignment
1. Think what you want students to accomplish
2. Write each step as a single sentence
3. Write in simple language.
4. Duplicate the list and give to students.

Procedures tell what to do.
Assignments tell what to accomplish.

An effective assignment must HAVE STRUCTURE and BE PRECISE.

Objectives assign and assess and should be written as a single sentence.

Give study guidelines at the beginning of a unit.

Align homework problems to specific objectives.

The purpose of a test is to assess a  student's performance against learning criteria.

Students need to know four things:
1. What they are to learn
2. How they are to learn it
3. How they are to demonstrate what they've learned
4. How the quality of their learning will be evaluated

The basis of every test is the objectives from each assignment.

You are teaching for accomplishment, and you want everyone to succeed.

A test tells you if the student needs corrective help. If you do not correct and remediate, learning gets worse as the year progresses.

The summative test should be the same as the formative, but the questions are asked in a different way.

Cooperative learning is not so much learning to cooperate as it is cooperating to learn.

Effective grouping is dependent on the class climate and the explanation.

Cooperative learning is not something that will happen overnight.

The number of people in a group must equal the number of jobs in the group.

The support group will get a group grade and that grade will be each individual's grade.

Learning is an individual activity but not a solitary one.

The two major concerns of a leader are enhancement and cooperation.

You can't make someone else's choices. You shouldn't let someone else make yours.

Power is not force but rather the ability to do things.

Do not allow people who cannot control their own lives to control your life.

Professionals share.

Rewards go to those who take risks.

Only a person who risks is free.

With desire and commitment the leader builds a fire inside that causes others to glow brightly.

Nothing improves a child's hearing more than praise.

Preparing for First Year Excellence

*update* Thanks to Joel at SYWTT for helping me out and sending readers over!*

The main advantage I have of being a substitute is time.

Time to prepare for the upcoming school year - my first year of teaching. Time to get to know the students and invest in a relationship with them. Time to try out different jobs such as grant writing, tutoring, coaching, and club sponsoring. Subbing requires no lesson planning so I have my nights free and I spend a lot of time blogging or reading books about teaching. I know that nothing can fully prepare me until I actually start teaching but I want to do the best I can to get ready.

What should I do to prepare for my first year? What kind of things can I do ahead of time? Can I start writing lesson plans, homework assignments, and tests or do I need to wait until I know my students? What things should I start buying ahead of time so I don't have to spend a million dollars in the first week of school? What are some other blogs I should be reading?

I want to live my life with a spirit of excellence. Help me be excellent!!



Changing the Culture: What Can I Affect?

A couple of weeks ago I went to a meeting for all the high school math teachers in the region about raising standardized test scores. Obviously this is a controversial issue all over the nation and everyone feels strong emotion when it comes to this subject. But that's not the direction I want to take this. Regardless of everything, we need to have high test scores and we don't. On my way to this meeting I was praying that God would give me some special insight. I am only a substitute teacher so I really have no significant input. I can't say what I've been doing and what works or doesn't work. It was super interesting to hear everyone's different opinions though.

My main thought kept coming back to this...the #1 factor affecting student's success is socioeconomic status (or so they tell me). How is it that the #1 most important thing is the #1 thing we can't affect? I definitely know God has placed me here, in this district, at this building, during this time for a reason. I honestly believe He has given me a vision for the region. My vision is to break the spirit of poverty over this region. There is a definite spirit of poverty or lack. The majority of people that live here never get out. There are no jobs and very little opportunity for doing anything. Education is not valued or rewarded. Get a job and have babies is pretty much the life goal for everyone. The best thing I can do for my students is to change the culture. Obviously, not something within my power alone to do. How do we affect the culture? How do make education a priority? What can one classroom teacher do to make a difference? I have ideas and dreams and thoughts but the truth is...I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm hoping this blog will become part of the answer to that. I need collaboration. I need to know what works. I need opinions, ideas, criticism, and feedback.

Show me how to make a difference and I'll show you something different.