Do you Duty?

I wanted to talk about another teacher hot button topic: duty.

Before I do so, however, I am taking a poll to get a general feel of how everyone else functions. For those non-teachers, duty can be extra work around the school either before or after normal contract hours, and/or, during the day in place of an off period or a break. Generally, in my neck of the woods, it is not optional and receives no extra compensation.

Feel free to comment below and let me know your thoughts on the subject, how your school applies the process, if it works/doesn’t, etc. I’m withholding my thoughts for the moment so I can hear some of yours.

Please take the poll and look out for my new blog on this topic coming soon! Thanks!

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http://poll.fm/f/4dty7

The ‘Perfect’ Way to Work and Still Maintain Your Home Without Going Nuts

I grew up in a world of self-imposed perfection. If I didn’t dress perfectly, make perfect grades, have perfect friends and act with utter perfection, I believed I was a horrible human being. What I really did was drive myself perfectly nuts trying to be all things to all people at all times. It was all in my perception.

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As I aged, this need for perfection carried over to my household duties and chores until, one day, while on my hands and knees in the corner with a toothbrush and a cotton swab, I suddenly realized that this behavior was going to be the death of me through stress. I worked hard enough during the week and, gosh darn it, my house could be imperfect and the world would keep on revolving. The bed could be unmade, the coffee cup in the sink unwashed, and the front porch not swept and it would be OKAY. No one was coming to take me away to cleaning rehab, or to scoff at my towel hanging in the bathroom to dry.

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When I ask my coworkers now if they have seen a certain movie, or went to a certain event, or were able to go to vacation to a certain place, they all tell me they don’t have time. “How”, they ask, “are you able to do all those things?” Well, I’ll tell you. I created a formula, because I am a Science teacher after all and formulas are some of what I do, and it goes like this:

Pre-planning and forethought + daily dedication = More free time

Below is the formula in action. I have used it and it WORKS. You can adjust as needed to fit your home. I have found that if I spend 30-45 minutes per day doing one room really, really well, I don’t spend my weekend or free time trying to meet /fight/ satisfy / avoid my need for things to be perfect (it’s always a battle with myself). I also have more time in the evenings to rest and get ready for the next day.

I decided to post this, as school begins for me tomorrow, in hopes that it may help someone who feels overwhelmed, and, to help remind me that the larger picture of life isn’t based on whether or not you can eat off my floors [which you can’t]: It’s based on how I’m able to touch lives through education and maintain love and devotion to my family. Have a great week and remember to look for the sunny side!

**Disclaimer: These photos are not of my actual home. They are what I would love to have, but as we all know, teachers don’t choose the profession for the $. My swimming pool is a blow up and my slip and slide is a string of black garbage bags, so don’t be hatin’. 🙂

Every day

1 load of laundry washed, folded, put away

Dishes washed

Sift Cat litter (unless you don’t have a cat, then this would be pointless) 🙂

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Monday: Bathroom

Toilet inside and out

Bathtub

Sink

 baseboard

 Dust

Sweep/Vacuum

Floors by Hand

 Straighten cabinets

 Wash all rugs

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Tuesday: Bedroom

Change linens

Dust

 baseboard

 Sweep/Vacuum

 Floors by hand

Wash all rugs and dog beds

Straighten Closet

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Wednesday: Living Room

Dust

Wash all cushions and dog beds

baseboard

Sweep/Vacuum

Floors by Hand

Windowsills cleaned

Clean front door window

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Thursday: Dining Room

Dust

Window sills cleaned

baseboard

Sweep/Vacuum

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Friday: Kitchen

Cabinets wiped

 baseboard

Empty Refrigerator

Clean Vent-a-hood and oven top

 Sweep/Vacuum

 Floors by hand

Straighten cabinetsmodern-kitchen-decor-vintage-style-1

Saturday: Yard and laundry room

Mow and weed as needed

Clean front porch

Sweep deck

Recycling

Sweep/vacuum

Floors by hand

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Sunday: Pay Bills and Rest

Garbage put out

Checkbook updated

Go to church, relax, spend time with family

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Things Every New Teacher Should Know

Looking back at my first day of teaching, I have to think, oh, little naïve one, so full of ideas and hopes. How dashed you will be when you realize that teaching isn’t always the makings of a movie script. I pat my own head in my mind.

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If I were to offer new teacher any advice, it would be as follows:

1) Running your own classroom is nothing like what you see in the movies. Students are not going to file in your room, stand upon their desks and utter ‘Oh Captain, My Captain!’ ala ‘Dead Poet’s Society’ style.  After a month, they are not going to play your Opus, Mr. Holland. You might be lucky if you get a ‘To Sir, With Love’ mug at the end of the year. These movies and all those about teaching such as ‘Dangerous Minds’ and ‘Stand and Deliver’ are fantastic and uplifting. They show what CAN happen in some classrooms with the right teachers and the students who respond. However, they are not the status quo and you shouldn’t beat yourself up if you feel a day isn’t notable.  You will have some amazing days, where you go home and feel that you made a difference and all is right with the world. Just be prepared that some days, you’d like to crawl under a rock instead.

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2. Be prepared for anything, like a Boy Scout. We joke where I work that the only consistency we have is inconsistency.  Don’t invest so much emotional time into an activity that you can’t change or move it at a moment’s notice.  For example, I was the dance team sponsor for a while and we were to have a Pep Rally on Thursday.  The day of the planned rally, it was cancelled and rescheduled for the following week.  Annoying? Yes.  Was I mad? You betcha, but that’s just what happens sometimes. Same thing for tests. You can plan a test and have review sheets distributed and then, on the day of the test, you have a fire drill or an evacuation. You have to be able to pick back up where you left off without thinking that ‘everything is ruined now!’ Sob!

Fire-Drill

3. Sometimes your best laid plans, don’t work, at all. Ask for help.  When I started teaching, I used a poker chip system to reward behavior. Good behavior = chip, bad behavior = I take a chip. Problem? The kids stole the chips. They wrote on them. They brought some from home to try to fool me.  I had to change my approach after a few trials, admit that this idea stunk, and find something new.  You will find what works for you through trial and error.  Ask other teachers what they do for bathroom passes, behavior issues, homework, etc. and they will be happy to tell you what’s worked for them. Don’t use something that clearly isn’t effective because you don’t want to ask for help. Also, don’t use my chip idea. Pain in the butt.

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4. Make friends with the custodians. These folks know all, see all, hear all. They know where extra desks are located, where paint can be found to fix the door chips, and they have the carts and buggies to haul around your heavy stuff.  Search out the one in your building, introduce yourself, and always be nice. Your floors might end up a little shinier.

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5. Stay away from the front office. Some people may disagree with me on this one, stating that the people there are willing to help you and that they’re there for you! Not that front office folk can’t be friendly, but they have their own things to do. They probably don’t have time to hear your concerns on the bathrooms, or how little Johnny won’t stop talking.  Many of them are busy fielding parent requests, completing invoices, making phone calls about absentees, dealing with a kid that brought drugs to school, etc. It’s not that your concerns aren’t important. The thing is, if you can talk them over with someone else, like a department head, that would probably be a better idea than becoming a fixture next to the Assistant Principal’s office.

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6. If at all possible, get yourself a classroom refrigerator to store your food if your District allows it. Lunch at my school was once pretty good. Then, with recent government changes in nutrition requirements, I would rather eat a stale biscuit half gnawed on by vicious garden gnome.  Some schools have catering (not that I’m all that jealous…well, maybe a little…okay a lot) and I hear the teacher meals are decent. Ask other teachers and see what the consensus is. We used to celebrate Fish Stick Fridays with Facebook invites because we so looked forward to the Mac & Cheese and Broccoli salad. Those days are gone and this past year, because I’d not yet bought a refrigerator, I ate Nutella straight out of the jar for a week for lunch.  A little Nutella goes a long way. (My friends would say I just uttered blasphemy).

737926p7.  Have back ups of your back ups. Always keep your lessons and lesson plans backed up. You never know when your District will get a virus. I’ve had one twice in 6 years and had I not had a copy of everything on my home computer, I would have been hiding in the closet, crying and mumbling incoherently.  Invest in one or two memory sticks and always try at least once a month to back up any files you worked on. Better safe than sorry. memory-card68. Don’t allow other teachers to overwhelm you. They mean well, but sometimes they might try and share everything they’ve collected in 25 years with you in 1 day. Take the information, put it to the side, and look through it when you have time. Remember, you will find your own groove and way of doing things. Not one teacher is the same and therefore, not one teacher teaches exactly the same.  Take a deep breath, perhaps drink some wine like my coworkers do (one said she drank straight out of the box in the bathroom at home and cried after a hard day), and remember, every day is a new day and you can make it if you take baby steps.

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9. Some of your students will never like you. Accept it. Do you like every single person you’ve ever met? Then why expect every single students to like you and your class? You could have done nothing wrong, have always been friendly and they still won’t like you. They may have come in with preconceptions about you based on a person they know who knows a person who knows a person who went to school with you, etc.  They may not care for your discipline, call your class dumb, or just not be interested in your subject area. This doesn’t make you a bad teacher. You have to think of all the students who DO like you, who DO like coming to your class and who ARE involved in the learning. It’s hard to accept sometimes, but occasionally, those kids who you thought never liked you will see you in town years later, and tell you how much they enjoyed your class. Weird.

Mischievous student

10. When you have a chance to go to a state or national conference, GO! You will get some great ideas, meet other people in your field, be able to discuss concerns with testing, etc. and earn credits for your license at the same time. I once went to the National Convention for Science in New Orleans, and my coworker, who loved Bill Nye, found out he was the guest speaker and kept chasing him around yelling ‘Bill Nye! Bill Nye!’. Good times.

Bill-Nye

11. Every time you see a sale on school supplies, it never hurts to throw a couple of extra things in your basket. Yes, we don’t get paid a lot to teach. Yes, we have our own families to care for. The kids you will teach, however, will also become an extended part of your life, and you will think of them as ‘my kids’. As you know, some kids can’t afford an extra box of crayons, or a zipper bag when theirs breaks.  Sure, they have some access to supplies at the beginning of the year through some school programs, but once those are gone, should they be left with nothing? The first time you have to watch a kid color with map pencils that are so short they can no longer be sharpened, and you know from having them in class that they have no money and are on free lunches, will be the last time you second guess yourself about throwing a box of map pencils for $.99 in your buggy. You don’t do it for the money, and if you have a little to use in this way, it will bless someone, and bless you in return.

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I could go on and on about advice I would give, and might even have to make this a two-part post. Remember, it’s about you finding your mojo and using your special gifts to inspire and teach the leaders of tomorrow. Smile and be happy this week!

6 People You Will Work With in Your Lifetime

Now we all have those special co-workers who have helped shape us.  They are our mentors, in many cases our friends, and sometimes become our second family. This post is not about those people. It’s about The Others. My co-workers are I were discussing the other day how new hires reminded us of some employees that had come and gone in the past, and I started wondering: Is there a list that I could create of types of people I have experienced throughout my employment history? Turns out, there is.

The Mole

(AKA The Behind Kisser, AKA Anything To Get Ahead, AKA The Backstabber, AKA Why Are They In The Front Office Again?)

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Identifying Attributes:  Everyone acquaintance, but nobody’s friend: The people they report to don’t even like them.  Always seems to show up when whispering begins.  You check your room/office/cubicle for listening devices because you just KNOW that they’re looking for something to report.  When sighted, everyone scatters like mice in a lit kitchen.  They ‘bait you’ to see what you’ll say, for example, “What do you think of this new dress code?”.  They are the first people you warn new hires about.

Pollyanna

(AKA Practically Perfect In Every Way, AKA The Pet)

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Identifying Attributes:  Usually lack a backbone of any kind. Allow upper management to treat them like a doormat because they will never, ever stand up for themselves.  Always gets the best assignments, duties, and jobs with a dutiful pat on the head.  Afraid to express opinions, try new things or go out on a limb because they might get into trouble and offend someone.  Deer and other wildlife flock to them as they sing in the parking lot. Super annoying.

The Hoarder

(AKA That’s Mine Even If It Isn’t, AKA Her Room Gives Me Panic Attacks, AKA Her Room Is A Fire Hazard)

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Identifying Attributes:  They still have ‘How To’ manuals for computer software from 1986.  They dig through things you’ve put out for custodians to take away. Anything they encounter in their environment becomes theirs, even if it has YOUR name on it.  At last count, they had roughly 2,000 assorted pencils and pens, yet refuse to loan any.  You never eat any food they bring to office parties.

The Critic

(AKA Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better, AKA Show Off, AKA Know It All)

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Identifying Attributes: Love to say, “Well, when I did ________, I did it this way and it worked”.  You could find a cure for a disease and they will tell you that they knew about that cure first, but just didn’t report it.  They belittle anything you say and try to do. They LOVE to prove people wrong and will spend business time doing research to do just that.  They argue with professionals, co-workers, children, plants, inanimate objects, etc.  By the time they’re done with you, you feel as effective/useful a person as half a bra.

The Underachiever

(AKA The Slob, AKA Are They Asleep?!, AKA No, You Can’t Borrow My Lesson Again.)

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Identifying Attributes: The last person in the parking lot in the morning and the first gone in the afternoon. They get paid the same as you, but do 100% less.  They sneak into a meeting and sign in during the last 10 minutes whereas you’ve sat there an hour.  They eat your food out of the common refrigerator.  They usually come in with a hangover, dark sunglasses, and a stamp on their hand.  You have no idea why they still work there.

The Needy Whiner

(AKA Why? Why? AKA It’s Not Fair, AKA Everyone Is Picking On Me, AKA Negative Nellie)

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Identifying Attributes: Thinks the whole world is against them, and that receiving an assignment, student, etc. is a punishment from God.  They make every conversation about them and their problems.  They don’t want help. They just want to complain.  When you ask them how they’re doing, they tell you terrible and begin to list all their trials and tribulations. They are the most miserable people to be around. Listening to their stories makes you want to stab out your eardrums with chopsticks.

Grime of Students Past

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Many, many thanks for all the great responses I’ve received since starting my blog. I wish I could respond to everyone, so here’s me (ME) giving you (YOU) a big thumbs up!

One of my favorite teachers left to join another District recently, and as I looked at her empty room today, I remember the fun we had making our own cleaning supplies last year.

Why did we do this? For several reasons:

1. We wanted to know what was in it,

2. We’re Science Teachers and we like mixing stuff,

3. It seemed like fun, and

4. To save moolah.

For those who don’t know, moolah has nothing to do with cattle, unless you’re selling the cattle, in which case, you’ll be making moolah from your moos. Maybe you could call it a Cash Cow. 🙂

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Anywho, as I begin to work on my classroom this week, (having finally gotten into the building – who waits until 2 days before Meet the Teacher to wax the floors?!),  I am reminded that I need to make a new batch of laundry detergent.  I am convinced my classroom is holding grime from the ghosts of students past and after today,  I’m wearing most of it.

Side note* Anyone else ever develop sinus problems after returning to work at school? It could be the single paned windows with decorative green slime that’s letting in allergens,  or maybe the collection of dust badgers (bigger than bunnies) on top of my storage cabinet.  Regardless, I mean for at least my clothes to be clean while I’m sniffing and snotting at Meet The Teacher Day.

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Frank, The Little Known Dust Badger

I have played around with different formulas, and I like this one best. You will need:

1 bar Fels Naptha (I never even knew this stuff existed until I looked for it on the laundry aisle)

1 bar Zote (I get mine from Lehmans.com, but Castille bar soap also works. Someone told me that they have it at Target aka The Evil Store where I spend too much moolah).

1 container OxyClean or, in my case, Dirty Jobs brand. (It was $4.99, $2 cheaper than Oxyclean, and I had a $1 coupon for it. I am a Coupon Ninja).

1 box Borax ( You can also use Washing Soda that is located next to the Fels Naptha that you never knew existed)

Optional: 1 container of Downy Pearls, Purex Beads, etc. for smell factor.

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I like things that are easy to make. I take a clean cat litter container (Tidy Cat works pretty well with a snap on lid), grate the bar soaps using a small grater, throw everything else in, FIRMLY put the lid on (I wouldn’t mention it if I hadn’t, cough, not done that once), and shake away.

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It takes only half a scoop, or if you’re really grimy, like on the day I clean gum from under the desks, use a full scoop.

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Pretty Detergent

I’m off to wash some clothes now and I wish each of a happy and stress free first week of In-service, Professional Development, Planning or Cleaning.

Remember, always look for the sunny side: Even if it’s runny, it’s there!

Funny Things Kids Ask and Say: Episode 1 of a Gazillion

I consider interacting with my students to be one of the best aspects of my job.  Every now and then, I am also treated to a great laugh.

Despite thinking they ‘know everything’, 8th graders are at their best when they feel comfortable enough to be honest.  Here are some of the best questions and statements I have heard in my class in the past few years. Yes, these are real, and yes, you should all get a good chuckle.

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Me: Let’s look at the root word for ‘Radiation’. We have the word ‘ray’. What does that make you think of?

Student (very excited, hand waving): My Uncle!!

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Me: We talked about Chernobyl the other day.  Can anyone give us a recap?

Student: Doesn’t he make popcorn?

Me: Are you thinking about Orville Redenbacher?

Student: Yeah!…wait….No, I don’t know anything. Never mind.

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Student was flicking at a poster of Uranus on the wall above his head.

Me: Please quit playing with…….uh, Jupiter

(remembering at the last moment that the students pronounced the planet as ‘Ur-anus’ and I didn’t want the class to be disturbed with a chuckle)

Student 2, loudly: He’s not playing with Jupiter! He’s playing with Uranus!

-Class was pretty much over after that-

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Written on my “What If and Funny Statements” Wall:

If you say the words ‘beer can’ with a British accent, it sounds like you’re saying ‘bacon’ like you live in Jamaica.

(Go ahead and try it. You know you want to)

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Student: If you were missing a toe, would you still wear a flip-flop?

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Student: What kind of rice is this? (points to menu)

Menu reads:        Orange Glazed Chicken

         Over Rice

Hope you enjoyed these few. I have many, many more that I’ll share as I go along.

Hope everyone has a great weekend and remember, no matter what your career or what you do,  take time to laugh!

Get On The Bus…

The dark side

I hadn’t planned on writing another blog quite so soon, but the response to my use of humor to share teacher misery was overwhelming!

99% of you understood that it was meant to be funny. <1% (well, actually 5 of you out of over 66,000 hits) were actually looking for ideas to make In-service better, and the last <1%, (2 of you), well, I’ll save them for later on.

To start, let me tell you that I’m required to attend 8 days of In-service and 2 work days. Quite a bit of these days are not led by Administrators but people hired to teach a seminar.  I have the greatest of respect for good Administration who are there to do a job many of us would rather not do. We call it “the dark side”, but really, they get to see some of the worst of the worst as far as situations, student behavior, etc.  Many of them DO have their hands tied and can’t do anything different for In-Service, or they are afraid to do something different because ‘this is how it’s always been done’. Every now and then you get an Admin who is open to new things and that’s when we, as teachers, need to jump at the chance to share our ideas.  So as we commiserate, we can remember that they are probably just as un-thrilled as we are about what’s going on. Now, people who are hired and get paid to do this for a living…that’s another thing!

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One fella we had brought cotton balls and gave them to us as a ‘reward’ for ‘participation’.  I teach Junior High, so we think like them from time to time, and we brought cotton balls in our purse, and the guy couldn’t understand how the bowls had become so full.  THAT’S the kind of In-Service I’m talking about….

People had some great ideas about what teachers really want and need in an In-service, so to help people out who were looking for this, I compiled the suggestions.

1. Have a separate training day for new teachers. They can get all of their paperwork finished, learn about campus and district policies, and receive all of their supplies and assignments. (I always wanted them to wear beanies for a week, but that’s probably teacher hazing).

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2. Have the whole staff attend a 30 min – hour meeting where new teachers are introduced, any finished/ongoing changes to the campus/district are discussed, and teachers receive a folder of all paperwork that needs to be completed by the end of the day (contact forms, etc.).

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3. The rest of the day is spent with Departments creating lesson plans for at least the first grading period. While they are together, the Principal can stop by and let them know test results and what the department needs to focus on for the upcoming year.

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4. Technology can come and meet with teachers by building and make sure all technology is working/installed/updated. (Did you know that if you put in a tech request and they fix the problems quickly, they close out the request by typing P.I.C.N.I.C which means ‘Problem in chair, not in computer’? It’s true…)

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5. All extra-curricular teachers and sponsors can meet and work out their calendars for the year. Hopefully this will help and little Johnny won’t be expected to be in band, in choir and on a Student Council trip at the same time.

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6. Teachers can join one of several different teacher led campus committees, such as PTA Reps, Secret Pals, Special Events, Sports Support, Grants for Teachers, Pets in the Classroom, etc. and plan how to involve teachers throughout the year and how to use activities to not only help students, but that also build teacher morale.

6296_fundforteachers7. As an In-service activity, teachers can be grouped with different departments and they can discuss what works, what doesn’t work, ideas for classroom management, etc. They create notecards full of ideas that work, and all teachers receive a copy to give them new ideas.

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8. Anyone who needs a specific course in bullying, harassment, discipline, management, etc. can use this time to take an online course. Many are offered through region training centers and can be taken at school. Results are printed and filed in the front office to make sure they have credit.

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9. And last, but certainly not least, teachers are able to make copies, clean and decorate, and get ready for the new batch of students.

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Now, as for the <1% who obviously didn’t understand that my previous blog was to be humorous, my advice: don’t read my blogs. It’s that simple. I am truthful and I try to present truth in a way that makes people laugh. I believe I was called a ‘whiner’ and told that my classroom scores must not be good, and that I needed to ‘get on the bus’.

Bus

I got news for you. All teachers are ON the bus. We LIVE on the bus. We eat there, cry there, celebrate there, and fall in love with our kids and career every year there.  One In-service activity last year actually had us get on a bus and tour the neighborhoods we served so we had a better idea about the kids and their home life. Some people threw up from motion sickness, some got heat exhaustion from the AC not working, and others just stared in awe at the ‘homes’ that these children lived in. But we were ALL there, and we stay there long past the day we retire.

What people who don’t teach don’t understand is that we don’t do this for the money, certainly not the insurance or the retirement. We do it for the kids, and if we have to use humor now and then to commiserate, then so be it. Like it or no, the truth is funny.

If Teachers Planned Inservice Training…

Team Work

I let out quite a chuckle when I saw this picture. I’ve been there and I’ve made that face.

*Disclaimer* This blog is not meant to imply that teachers do not appreciate learning. It is also not intended to imply that we are ‘lazy’, ‘unprofessional’ or the like. We wouldn’t be in education if we didn’t appreciate its value. What we don’t appreciate is receiving the exact same training year after year. That’s not Professional Development. That’s insulting. As far as those looking for examples on what could be done during In-Service, please read my other blog entitled ‘Get on the Bus’. Any and all comments which use bad language, insult another who comments by name calling, etc. will not be posted. *

It got me to thinking…teachers are required to attend Inservice “training” before school. It’s always dreaded and I, personally, would rather have a cavity filled than sit 3 days in a hard wooden chair, rehashing the same things year after year after year after…you get the picture.  What if teachers were in change of Inservice? What would we do away with if we could suggest anything and people in charge would listen? Ohhh, the possibilities…..

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1. Please do not give us binders full of materials we will probably never use because YOU (the planner) attended a training and decided it was awesome.  Honestly, just give us an empty binder. That’s what is going to happen anyway. We listen to your synopsis, trying our best not to roll our eyes or poke the person next to us, and then, when it’s over, in the hidden comfort of our room, we are going to throw away these copies and use the binder. Save a tree. Just give us the binder, say you went to a conference and let’s move on. Time saved: 1 hour.

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2. Please do not read your PowerPoint presentation to us.  At some point in time, we’ve all proven we are literate.  Also, doubly, please do not put said PowerPoint presentation in aforementioned binder we will not use. Just don’t. Time saved: 30 minutes.

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3. No, we do not want to change how we teach AGAIN because so and so came out with a new technique which looks familiarly like the one we used several years ago until a new technique came out and we used that. And for goodness sakes, please, please, we don’t need another laminated copy of Bloom’s taxonomy. Nope. Time saved: Up to a day. Literally.

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4. I like my coworkers, and heck, I even love some that I’ve known a while, but I don’t want to hold yarn in a shape with them and throw a ball around until it falls through a hole. You REALLY want work place bonding? Break us into groups, give us a list of clues and tell us there’s a pay raise hidden somewhere on campus.  Oh yeah, you’ll see some bonding, and some true colors come out. Time saved: 1 hour, We’re bonded and richer

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5. What we despise? Really, really loathe. Think-Pair-Share = No.  You know what’s going to happen? You think we’re sitting around talking about your binder, and your PowerPoint (in the binder) and how much we loved the yarn activity, when really, we’re talking about where we’re going to for lunch. You can call on us and we’ll make something up on the fly that sounds relevant if you need us to do that. We’re teachers, remember? We are experts of thinking off the cuff. We’re still throwing away your binder, and now we know we’re having Mexican food for lunch. You can’t come. Time saved: 30 minutes.

Mission statement

6. Why ask us what the Campus Mission Statement and goals should be if the Mission Statement and goals have not changed in 20 years? Hand us a copy, we’ll grunt in agreement, and we’re done. Please don’t give us a copy and ask us to Think-Pair-Share with the group about these things. We care about as much as the students care that the floors are waxed. Time saved: At least an hour.

Sounds great

7. We know you want us to get into the groove ASAP with our ISPs and our plans for those in DAEP and ISS. We see we have scheduled ARDs or have paperwork on students that have a BIP.  We also need to look at our STAAR scores, but the 411 is that we are A-OK with actually saying the words. Time saved: Not really applicable, but at least everyone can keep up with what’s being said.

And last, but not least…

Stats

8.  We are not statisticians. Some of us may be able to do statistics under threat, but what we really want to know, in caveman speak even, is ‘You do good’ or ‘You do bad’. That’s it. We are relatively easy to please. Please do not hand us copies of every single test ever taken in the last 15 years and ask us to create and graph the distribution. This is when we suddenly get an ‘urgent’ phone call, or stomach troubles. (By the way, we’re all hanging out in the bathroom, rolling our eyes, heavily sighing, and walking very, very slowly). Time saved: 1 hour

Image

“Keep it down, folks!” Classroom Procedure for Quiet Made Into a Game

Noise Buttons

“I don’t go to your house and stand between you and your Xbox and try to teach you Science, so please don’t come into my ‘house’ and disturb what I’m doing.”

Any teacher can tell you that there are those moments in education where you’re moving right along with your curriculum, you’re in the zone, ……..and you realize that you’re talking to yourself.  I have tried many classroom procedures to quell the extra chit chat.  Over the years, I have learned that bringing in a competition of sorts, especially with tweens and teens really 1. Gets their attention, 2. helps the class to bond and, 3. uses positive peer pressure to help kids conform.

Now, I can hear the groans. Oh no, HOW could you use peer pressure? What if EVERYONE doesn’t win the game? Does EVERYONE get a reward? What about their SELF-ESTEEM? As an adult, I can tell you that I have learned just as much from my failures and losses as I have from my successes.  My soapbox for 2 minutes: Kids need to understand that there’s a lesson to be learned in not always being successful/a winner/perfect. I think the world where everyone gets a pat on the back for showing up is really setting our kids up for unreal expectations.  Let’s stop setting these kids up for disappointment.  There’s nothing wrong with not coming out on top from time to time. It’s part of being human, and, yes, people will have certain expectations of you as an adult. You can be yourself, but learn when it’s okay/not okay to buck the system. Alright, I’m done now.

Anywho, I had these bottle caps I found in an old tin from a garage sale and I kept them with the thought that one day they’d come in handy.  I saw a similar project on Pinterest where large letters spelling ‘noise’ were used to keep the class aware of the noise level. I decided to turn it into a game, given my audience. Let’s talk about what I did first, and then I’ll tell you how the game is played.

I painted the bottle caps in sets of 5. I have 7 different classes for I ended up with 7 different colored sets. (I know there are 6 sets in this picture. I remembered to take a picture only after I had already started my next step. Oops.)

Painting

Then, I used my Mod Podge and some letters I found in some old scrap book stuff to create the word ‘noise’ on each set. If you aren’t familiar with Mod Podge, you’re missing out! It’s like a glue, but less sticky, easy to work with, and dries to a nice glaze. You can get it from all local hobby stores. I placed some under the letter, and then placed two coats on top of the letter, allowing time to dry between coats.Mod Podge

Bottom Coat

Top Coat

After they dried, I placed magnets on the back with hot glue so that they would cling to my classroom white board. Here’s my finished set.

Set

To make this into a game, I created game cards, one for each class.  They were color coded to match the bottle  caps, and were 7″ x 7″.  I spaced out the blanks by 1/2″. I plan to laminate them so that dry erase markers can be used on them.

Game Cards

Here’s my finished set of cards and bottle caps, aka game pieces.

Game Set

To play the game: Each Monday, all classes start with a full set of game pieces on the whiteboard. If they get unruly, don’t pay attention, etc., a letter comes off.  This continues for the week. On Friday, the number of game pieces they still have on the board determines the number of moves they get to make on the classroom/team game cards.  These cards are posted on my bulletin board.  The goal is to fill in two complete lines on the card. Any direction, up, down, in an ‘X’.  To do this, they have a choice: Use, Block, or Split.

If they decide to ‘Use’, they will use their moves to fill in spots on their classroom/team game card. For example, on Friday, a class has three letters left and they chose to ‘Use’ these three moves. They would place three dots on their card, working toward filling in their two lines.

If they chose to ‘Block’, they can use their moves to place an ‘X’ on another class card to cover over a move that class has made. To redeem this move, the class who received the ‘X’ must use a move to get that space back.

If they chose to ‘Split’, they can use their moves to make a mark on their card and block on their opponent’s cards.  Example, they had a great week and earned all 5 moves. They place 3 dots on their own card and block two opponents.

Each week, the class elects a different Game Leader. This Game Leader listens to his classmates and make the decisions that the class, or most of it, agree upon in relation to Use, Block or Split.

When a class fills in two lines, they get to draw a class reward. For example, a fun lab in class that other classes don’t get to do. Half a class day outside, etc. The cards are erased and the game starts again.

Now, if the class goes through all game pieces in a week, you need to slow down and evaluate what’s going on in that class because something is wrong with the precious little angels!  I have one like this every year and sometimes you have to create different procedures for them because they are just a handful (we’ve all been there).

Hope you enjoyed this post and let me know if you have any suggestions, if you try it, etc.

Thanks!

I am a teacher

I would like to be able to say that teaching is all I ever wanted to do; that when I could first choose a path for life, I thought of the joy in instructing others.  That would be a lie.  I wanted to be a writer, a journalist, a doctor, a corporate guru, and in my younger years, Princess Leia, but never a teacher.  I work with amazing people who have been teaching for years, who knew that this was what they wanted to do.  I, for lack of a better word, stumbled into it.

I did very well in school, but I was very shy, except around my friends.  I always compared myself to the popular girls who were tall and blonde and beautiful.  I was nerdy, short, had coke bottle glasses and I always ruined the ‘curve’.  I didn’t like speaking in front of the class and I didn’t want to do anything that would draw attention to me in any way. I honestly didn’t think much of myself except that I could master any subject, pass any test, or do anything academic with ease.  By the time I was 26, I had my Master’s degree and wanted to finish my Ph.D., joining the ranks of professors.  Life is funny though: It had other plans for me.  My Ph.D. program lost accreditation right before I was to move to attend and I was lost. Utterly, completely, totally, l-o-s-t! I laid on my couch for a week surrounded by boxes of my life and wondered what it was I was supposed to do with this messy moment.  (You’re thinking perhaps that it was then I had a revelation, an epiphany, that I was meant to help others learn.  Nice way to sum up the story, but wrong.)

I wandered from job to job to job.  I always did them very well, but something was always missing.  I didn’t feel as if I had purpose, that I helped anyone in particular, or that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing.  It wasn’t until I was 32 that I came across a local program where I could achieve my teaching certificate in a year since I already had a degree.  I was working for my grandfather selling real estate (never work for family), had the time and realized I had nothing to lose.  I gained my certificate by passing the certification tests the first time, and I was set.

Granted, like any new teacher, I had delusions, ( super big ones), about how my classroom would run.  It would be like a combination of ‘Mr. Holland’s Opus’ and ‘Dead Poet’s Society’, where I inspired inquiring minds to ‘seize the day’! They would show up excited to be in my class, would eagerly complete all my assignments, and would leave at the end of the year, better people!  I would single-handedly save the academic world! I quickly discovered that the only thing some wanted to ‘seize’ was a nap, some only wanted to complete a text on their ‘hidden’ phones in their laps, and the only thing some couldn‘t wait to do was leave my class.  Although I won them over with my witty remarks and they all thought I was ‘so funny’, I couldn’t seem to get them to learn and love learning.  I cried a few times in the bathroom stalls and I had to ask myself if I had yet again made a mistake.

One day near the end of the year, I found a note on my desk while grading papers. I still have it and it reads:

Dear Mrs. Lap, Thank you for this year.  It has been so much fun. As I leave this school, my head will be full of memories from your class.  It was a place where I could be myself.  You helped me realize that it is better to be myself than to be something I’m not. With Love, your student.

I felt like a giant ass.  I had been so focused on “the curriculum” that I forgot the most important part: the students.  I told myself that I would never again make the worksheet more important than the kid.  I would never make the test supersede a student’s bad home life.  I would not forget what it was like to be unnoticed, overlooked, and to feel unimportant.  Once I made this the cornerstone of my teaching, everything else fell into place.  Now, granted, some days are better than others and some kids are still knot-heads. They are teenagers and they roll their eyes, but as long as they leave my classroom with whatever knowledge I can give them about science and life in general, I am fine with the mood swings and semi-drama.  It’s hard to describe unless you’ve found it yourself, but amidst it all, I know that I’m finally where I need to be.  I am a teacher.