What I Learned As A Kid

Recently, I read a post from an acquaintance that adults should treat children as equals from birth because we want them to grow up confident. It went on to add that children should be involved in all household decision making, including groceries and budgeting, and that parents should freely allow them to express themselves, for example, using curse words in public as long as the words are used correctly. Everyone should get a chance to play on the team and perform, even if they stink at whatever the activity is and it hinders the other children’s chances to experience success.  To conclude, the goal of the parent is to protect the child from feelings of failure so they will grow up to be good human beings.

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Having recently turned 40, I have to be honest. This post didn’t sit well with me.  It’s as if some people have forgotten the basics. My parents did absolutely none of these things and I think many people that know me would be hard pressed to say that I’m not confident and strive to be a good person.  I started thinking about some valuable lessons I learned as a child, and thought maybe I should pass them on.  These basic ideas have been pretty helpful over the years.

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Not everyone SHOULD get to be on the team. People have different skills and abilities. What one person is great at and has a passion for, someone else could care less about or be at most mildly interested. When did it become ‘do as many mediocre things as you can and get a trophy for showing up’ rather than focus on 1 or 2 things you’re really good at and become an expert at them? Also, a child shouldn’t be in everything. They need time to study and play and learn. I know a 13 year old in school 7 hours a day, then dance, voice lessons, modeling on the weekend, cheer 3 times a week, choir and band, UIL teams, student council and honor society. You can’t tell me that’s not a tired, stressed kid. The question is: Is this for the child and what they want, or is it what the parent thinks the child should do? Lots of people live vicariously through their children these days.

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Life doesn’t pack you in bubble wrap. As I look back as an adult, I realize that my parent’s allowing me to try and fail at some things on my own taught me as much if not more than always having success. Some parents so internalize their kid’s success and failures that when the kid doesn’t do well, the parent flips out, threatens to sue or calls the news. That’s not to say you shouldn’t commiserate and feel for the child. Just use it as a teaching moment instead and see what mistakes were made, what they can learn from the experience and how it can make them wiser, more rounded people. Life is full of stupid ‘duh’ mistakes. The difference between blaming and learning is how you were taught to deal with failure.

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Life isn’t fair and doesn’t care if your feelings are hurt. Not everyone gets to be Homecoming Queen. Recently, I saw a school activity where some folks tried out and didn’t make the cut. It sucks, believe me. I’ve been there. Instead of chalking it up as experience, parents called the school and wanted to know why, why, why?!?! Why wasn’t precious who didn’t meet all the qualifications not chosen for a committee of 10 when 15 other applicants were more qualified? Could the auditions be held over? Was there a mistake? How could they get copies of all the records? Who did they need to speak to in order to rectify this grievous error? Could they speak to the people who did the ratings? My question: As a parent, are you going to call an employer and find out why your child wasn’t hired for a job? Are you going to talk to his or her boss about why they received an average evaluation? Of course not, many would say. Then why are you trying to force your child into an activity for which they’re not qualified? Saw in the news where some local lady was suing a school district because her daughter didn’t make cheerleader. What does this teach kids? That if you aren’t hired, you sue the company? If you don’t get the grade you want, you complain until you force them to give you something you didn’t earn? Goes back to failure. Teach kids to be good ‘winners’ AND good ‘losers’ and the world will be a happier place.

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NO, means no, means no, means no. Not, ask again in 15 minutes. Not, bother me until I give in. Not, only on certain conditions. No. No, you are 11 and may not play Gameboy until 2am instead of doing your homework. No, we cannot work out a deal. No, you do not get a say in adult decision making when it comes to your education and well-being as a minor. No. I appreciate your thoughts, but no. When I was a kid, I asked once and if I was told no, guess what? I was told no. I didn’t ask again. I didn’t get all suave and try to bargain and reason and cut a deal. Why? Because my parents were the ADULTS and I was the CHILD. They knew what was best for me, they had life experience, and I respected their answer. Was I always happy with their answer? Heck to the no. Sometimes, I think I actually seethed, but it was their home and their rules. Now at age 40, my parents treat me as an equal, and I’m glad they treated me like I was a kid when I was a kid. Parent’s set the rules, stick to them, and allow kids to be kids. As a teacher, I’m here to tell you, kids LIKE boundaries. They want to know what goes and what doesn’t. It’s when they’re in the ‘whatever dude’ environment that they most get into trouble. Give them the stability that they need to grow up. As they get older, involve them more in the decision making, such as when they start driving, but I don’t think you should treat them as little adults from the get go and certainly not in equal standing with you. Be their parent, not their BFF.

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Everything you do in life is potentially a test. Don’t half-a** anything because you never know when what you do will be judged, critiqued or graded by others. If you’re filling out an application for something, use your best handwriting, and don’t make it look like a last minute grocery list. Good enough isn’t good enough if it can be better and better isn’t good enough if it can be best, I’ve heard say. Teach your kids that they should always try to do things to the best of their abilities. As my daddy taught me, if you’re going to do anything do it as right as you can the first time.

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Always show respect for others….even when you secretly don’t care for them. I have a person in my life that I’m fairly certain I would not urinate on if they were on fire. However, when I see them, I’m polite, I’m respectful, and I move on. Why? I was taught to have manners. The world isn’t a set of the Jerry Springer show. Classy people show their class by 1. The way they deal with adversity, and 2. By the way the deal with people they don’t like. In addition, you show respect for YOURSELF. Stupid isn’t cute, especially when it’s an act for attention, and no one is impressed when you show up looking like something the cat dragged in. Pajamas are to be worn to bed or around the house and not to Wal-Mart or other public places. Rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t dream of wearing it to meet your favorite __________ (whatever), then don’t wear it out of the house. Just saying.

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The best things in life aren’t things. They are family, memories, activities, holiday’s together, fun events and sharing. It often seems today that kids have their love bought with stuff because the stressed parents are so busy trying to make the status quo and know they’re missing out. Computers, Xboxes, $300 cell phones, $200 jeans, $200 designer purses, IPods, IPads, Nooks, Kindles, internet Wi-Fi…I remember doing a lot of reading, and talking to others when I was growing up. I played outside with a water hose where I drank the water and didn’t worry about a disease and sanitize it with 45 different products. I made mud pies, played on my swing-set and monkey bars, rode my bike and made up stories with my friends. Now, people sit in rooms together in silence on their phones, and we wonder why kids have problems with writing, reading, problem solving and drawing conclusions. Sometimes I wish a CME (Coronal Mass Emission) from the sun would shut down all power grids for a day just so people would have to communicate and remember what that was like.

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You appreciate what you have. You took care of it and didn’t throw whatever it was around in the expectation of just getting another one. You took care of your home and mowed your yard and cleaned your home and room. You were proud of what you had and you were thankful. I can’t tell you the number of people I know who live in houses that could be nice, but they don’t take care of them, or anything for that matter. However, they drive $70,000 cars and buy their kids a new cell phone every time he or she is careless and breaks it. This instant, drive-thru mentality of ours is going to end up biting us in the butt. I have students whose parents bought them supplies that they tear up, or break in half because they know they’ll get more. How are these kids going to function when they’re on their own?

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No, my childhood wasn’t perfect, but I feel like many kids these days don’t have a chance to be kids and many parents don’t have the opportunity and time to parent.  Times change and things come and go, but I think that some things, like love for family, trying to understand your child, and respecting yourself and others never goes out of style. But this is all just my opinion…

School is over a month away, but let’s put out school supplies! – Wal-Mart

With school supplies showing up at my local Wal-Mart (because they must get out the Christmas decoration by October and will need the room), my school nightmares have returned.

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My basic nightmare begins in a classroom of people held against their will where no one will listen to me…you know, almost like a real school day.   The administration has taken away my classroom for my conference period (which isn’t all that of a stretch as they did it last year to use my room for another class) and I have to tromp to the woods by the football stadium to find my used KOA cabin that is now my conference room. I glance into the woods, and the road to my cabin is muddy and full of pot holes. (Symbolism much?) Then, I’m called to the Principal’s office where a parent has reported me for calling them a lint ball. As punishment, I have to pull staples out of the world’s longest bulletin board with a toothpick.

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I wake up in a cold sweat.

Back to school is always a mix of good and bad feelings. You get a new start, with new kids and you look forward to getting to know them and being able to visit with your co-workers again.  On the flip side, you have to get up early, wear actual clothes not made of sweat pant material, and fight off the first month illness that you always get when surrounded by new germs, eh, kids.

Several of my friends are new to teaching this year and have asked me to make them a list of what they will need to stock their desks and classrooms. In response, I have written some of the longest text messages known to mankind…they’re probably still being sent as we speak.  As I waited to hear the ‘sent’ beep, the thought occurred to me that it would have been nice, when I started, to know what I needed to have on hand. Thus, this super fantastic and descriptive blog.

Keep in mind your audience and your age group. Obviously 1st graders don’t need pointed scissors around and 8th graders, although some may disagree, wouldn’t benefit from a sleeping mat (but their teachers might).  Some school districts, if you are one of the lucky few, provide all supplies for teachers and may have a supply closet where you can retrieve extra things. (If you are one of these people, be thankful and let me know if the Unicorn is pretty).  Most will give you a budget of around $100 to buy things from their warehouse.  The bulk of what 1st time teachers, heck, all teachers, need to start a school year, generally falls on them.

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Upside, you can claim about $200 on your taxes. Also, once you teach for a while, you’ll find that you’ll need less and less and are replacing only consumables. The downside, the $200 barely covers tax for what you end up spending sometimes, especially if you try to furnish your own room, except for desks.

Tips: Stores such as Joanne’s Fabrics, Office Depot, Walgreens and CVS have discount/loyalty cards that you can get for free which give you discounts or offer rebates to teachers. You can also create a page on http://www.adoptaclassroom.com and ask people you know if they would be willing to donate a few bucks to help you get started.  Also, start saving Boxtops off General Mills products. Each one is worth 10 cents and once submitted in groups of 50, earn you a check that you can spend on supplies. Two submission dates: October and February. Check with your campus to see if someone is in charge of this and, if not, you can register your school at www.boxtopsforeducation.com .

Okay, to the list. In general, you will need the following to stock your desk and room:

  • Pencils and sharpener (You may want to invest in a good sharpener right off the bat. Many of the ones attached to the wall are more successful at eating pencils than actually sharpening them.

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  • Pens (Red, blue and black)
  • Notebook paper and/or legal pad and/or spiral or composition book (I use a comp book to document discipline and the others for writing down ideas or information at staff meetings [doodling])
  • Binders (If you’d like to keep hard copies of lessons in these)
  • White Out
  • Expo markers and erasers
  • Stapler, staples, staple puller (Usually 2 staplers – 1 for you and 1 for the students)
  • Notecards (Trust me. They come in handy for different things)
  • Rubber bands
  • Clip board
  • Map Colors/Markers/Highlighters/Crayons
  • Glue stick

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  • Ruler/Meter stick
  • Post it notes
  • Band-Aids
  • Scissors (Get a good pair)

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  • Calculator
  • Masking Tape
  • Transparent tape and dispenser
  • Sharpies
  • Sliding E-Z grader (Can be found at most school supply places or online)
  • Eraser Caps/Big Eraser
  • Baskets or boxes for storage

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  • Manila file folders/hanging folders
  • Kleenex
  • Lysol wipes (For all things dirty)
  • Baby wipes (Come in handy for dirty hands that can’t use sanitizer)
  • Pledge and a duster (Kids make dust like Pig Pen from Snoopy)

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  • Paper towels
  • Personal items like deodorant, toothbrush and paste, hair brush etc. because there are some mornings when things are forgotten or not done well.

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  • Comfortable elevated chair (You might work up to this purchase, but it’s well worth it to rest your feet and still be able to see everyone)
  • Ball of yarn (Lost lanyards, name tag holder, etc)
  • Small umbrella (For those days when the sky’s bottom drops out and you parked at the back of the lot)
  • Latex gloves (A few pairs should do…you never know. I wore them when I cleaned desks where kids with lice had sat)
  • Personal decorating (This is where it can get pricy – fabric, curtains, posters, etc.) This is up to you.

 

I think I covered most of it. Again, these are the basics I keep on hand in my room.  Don’t be overwhelmed. A lot of this you probably have hanging around your house, in the garage or in your junk drawer or craft room.  Once you request the kids to bring their items, you can add to yours over the course of the school year and be able to buy less the following year.

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Most school supplies are on sale from July – end of August. After this time, they can double in price. In other words: Get them while the getting’s good! Have fun shopping, go sign up for those discount cards and get your goodies now!

 

 

A Bad Administrator In The Classroom: A Fairy Tale

Keeping with my theme of make-believe and fairy stories, I began to think the other day during a staff meeting (where we discussed what we had already received in a memo), what would happen if people long, long, long out of the classroom, such as bad, out of touch administrators, were thrust back into duty?

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Now I know some Admins. make it their mission to never loose touch with what it was like to be in the classroom. Some will even substitute on your sick days to get a feel for the students. I don’t know these people, but I’ve heard they exist.

I’m talking about, however, the ones safely behind their desks in their shiny, clean offices, decorated with live plants, carpet, breakable things, and state of the art technology. The ones with access to intercoms, a copier that works, food delivery, 2 hour lunch breaks, special parking, and the ability to call a meeting because…eh…why not. Those people.

Now granted, many Administrators worked in classrooms for years and have earned their chance to relax a little because they have their own set of responsibilities we know nothing about, such as running an entire school without the place flooding, exploding, catching fire, being shut down from a lice epidemic, etc. etc.

Think of one that you really didn’t/do not like. One that snuck in on the ‘good ol’ boy or girl’ system. One that spent the bare minimum amount of time in the classroom before working their way up to Assistant Principal, where they spent another bare minimum amount of time on that before they received a Principal position.  Let’s call her Mrs. Jones. Here’s her fairy tale….

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Donna Jones had been a teacher for precisely 3 years before attending a 3 hour course to be an Assistant Principal. She got the next open position and spent another 2 years there before barely passing her Principal certification. Donna Jones didn’t like being in the classroom, but she had big ideas. She was going to go all the way, to Superintendent if she could. The test scores at her school were very good, thanks to her solely of course, and the teachers were well trained to ask no questions, make no suggestions, or challenge any of her ideas. She was always right anyway. What did they know.

Donna arrived at school one morning with a smile plastered across her face. After splashing some water on teachers crossing the parking lot full of holes, she parked right next to the door prepared to begin her day as she always did: Announcements.  The Principal before her had always allowed the Students Council to do the announcements, but Donna liked to hear herself talk as she believed she had an excellent speaking voice, so she did all of them now. She had also planned a last minute staff meeting that should take up most, if not all, of the teachers’ conference periods where she planned to discuss changing all the curriculum at the Semester because of a book she read. She liked the ideas in this book and, although none of the book had statistics to support the curriculum theories, she thought it would be a great idea to change. And if the teachers didn’t like it? Well, she would assign them terrible duties and that would put an end to the whining.

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Upon entering her office, Donna was dismayed to find students lined up outside her door. ‘What are you doing here?” she asked. They stated that they needed retests and homework help and since no one else was there yet, they had been instructed to come to her. “Homework”, she thought with a huff. “Sorry, but that’s NOT my job,” she stated squeezing her way in the door. “What are we supposed to do?” a student asked. “Go ask a teacher,” she replied. “None of them are here,” they said.

How could this be? She worked her way into the receptionist’s office. “Where are all the teachers?” she asked, in a grumpy tone. This was not how she wanted to start her day! “Everyone has called in sick!” the receptionist said, dismayed. “I’ve called in enough subs for all but 1 class. Could you take the class? We’re desperate?”

Donna thought it over. It wasn’t the way she wanted to spend her day, but how hard could it be? “Alright,” she sighed. “I’ll do it.” The receptionist looked relieved and assigned her to a class in the adjoining building. Science. “The teachers always seem to make this look easy, ” she thought. “If THEY can do it, I’m certain that I can do it”.

Donna had not had a Science class in 25 years, but being as brilliant as she thought she was, she headed off to the Science building.

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The bell rang and the students haphazardly began to enter the Science classroom. “A Sub!” they squealed! “We have a Sub!”

“Now sit down young ladies and your gentlemen,” Donna began, but it seemed like no one was listening to her. She raised her voice a bit and repeated the request. Students milled around the room, one chased another and two were fighting with IDs on cords. Donna raised her voice a little more. Nothing happened. A teacher stuck his head in from across the hall. “Sit down and shut it!” he bellowed. The students scattered, finding their seats, and settling down. “Oh hello, Mrs. Jones,” the teacher said. “I thought they were in here by themselves. I’ll leave you to it.” As he disappeared, Donna had a fleeting thought that she wanted to call him back, but no. She had this covered.

She began by calling roll. It wasn’t until the 12th student or so when she realized that some of them had answered multiple times. “Are you giving me your correct names?” she asked. Heads bobbed. A few chuckled. “Because if you aren’t,” she said, “You will receive a stern discussion with me.”

“What did she say?” whispered one student to another. “I don’t know,” the student replied.

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“Hey,” said one student. “Aren’t you that lady that does announcements?”

“I,” Donna said, standing up a little taller, “am your Principal. Don’t you know who I am?”

Students shook their heads.

“How come you never write anything down for those announcements?” another student asked. “You make a lot of mistakes.”

Donna was shocked. How DARE they be so insolent! “Your teacher never makes any mistakes?” she asked, determined to show them by logic that their comments were faulty. “Not really, ” replied a student. “She’s very smart and funny and we like her.” Donna sniffed.

Clearly these children couldn’t be reasoned with.

She passed out the worksheet and the students began working, except for one. “Why are you not working?” she asked him. “I don’t have a pencil,” he said. “Why do you not have a pencil?” she asked. He shrugged. She returned to the teacher’s desk and dug through it looking for a pencil. “Here,” she said, presenting him with a pencil. “It’s not sharpened,” he said. “So sharpen it…” Donna replied. “Nah,” the student said and continued to sit there. “What was wrong with these students?” she thought. Clearly, she needed to address students having supplies and showing respect at the next staff meeting. This was ridiculous.

A student asked her a question she couldn’t answer, and then another, she also couldn’t answer. She referred to a Science book and then realized that Pluto was still a planet in the book. “Why are these books so old?” she thought. Students couldn’t learn with outdated material. Another student raised his hand because he didn’t have a pencil either. “This is unacceptable,” she mumbled to herself as she dug through the desk again.

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The class ended and the next came in, worked up as before. She tried to politely settle them until the teacher across the hall came over again and yelled at them to be seated. Four more didn’t have pencils, everyone asked who she was, 1 wanted a Band-Aid, everyone had questions she couldn’t answer, and one wouldn’t stop talking to save her life.

Another class followed, this time with 4 students without pencils, 2 wanting to use the restroom while she was trying her best to give directions, 2 were arguing like an old married couple and wouldn’t be quiet, one kept throwing paper airplanes and another kept wandering around like Moses looking for the promised land. No one knew who she was…again.

Papers stacked up on her desk like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. How in the world did the teacher grade these, keep class under control, make lesson plans, make copies, help with homework and retests, attend staff meeting and do duty? Right then, a student came up and asked for paper. “Why?” Donna asked. “I like to eat it,” the student said. Donna gave her the paper. At this point, who cared.

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The rest of the day was a blur and when the last bell rang, she sighed with relief. That is until the receptionist came in and told her that the teacher she replaced had parent pick up duty. Off she trudged to the lot. Did her shoes hurt this much when she put them on this morning? Students milled around and talked while parents were clearly waiting in cars. Another teacher had a megaphone and was calling names, sometimes 3-4 times before the student responded. “Great,” Donna thought to herself. “Now they don’t even know their own names.” Forty-five minutes later, duty was over and Donna drug herself to her car. She couldn’t remember where she had placed her keys so she had to go back to her office. Finally, after searching for some time, she realized they were in her pocket.

Donna was in bed at 7:30 pm. As she tried to sleep, she realized that being a teacher wasn’t as easy as she remembered. “I really need to do things to help those teachers out,” she thought to herself. She drifted off to sleep planning all the things she was going to do to appreciate and value her teachers, including buying each classroom a supply of pencils. “Ridiculous,” she mumbled into her pillow.

The end.

Is ‘Duty’ a 4 letter word?

Truthfully, I can’t say I have personally ever spoken to a fellow teacher who enjoyed duty. Granted, I teach at a Junior High where watching them chew with their mouths open is a lot less charming than to see little ones swinging and playing hopscotch.  However, one thing it seems that most can agree on: Almost all schools require and need some form of duty either before or after school, or in some cases, both.  Several years ago, we had parents who dropped students off at 6:45 am. Unsupervised, they tore out ceiling tiles, stole items from display cases and broke things in the halls…and these were kids who were typically considered good. The main problem? There was no one there to watch them.

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71.64% of respondents to my poll about duty noted that they have duty both before and after school. 11.94% have it only after school, 4.48% have it only before school and somewhere, over the rainbow in a land of unicorns and wonderment, 11.94% noted that their school requires no duty. (Where is the place, and are they hiring?)

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My school requires duty twice per week, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. I have had what I affectionately call ‘Pop Tart Patrol’ for going on 5 years now. We’ve joked that teachers should have a sash and earn patches for duty stations much like the Boy or Girl Scouts. If so, I’d have 4 Pop Tarts and 5 Parent Pick-Up Cars on mine.

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Some of the comments, I wanted to share:

Even though I do morning (albeit, once a week) duty, and afternoon
walker duty… I’m fortunate to have been taken off of lunch duty. Feeling like
I should light a candle for my coworkers…    Henry

I think duty at my school is pretty fair.  Generally, we all have an
assigned duty–some better than others.  Car duty is the worst.       Suzanne

I teach in a high school.  We have duty assignments for before and
after school.  Additionally, the students have an hour lunch, but the teachers
have 30 minutes.  Guess what we get to do for the other thirty minutes?  Duty.
Duty may include the traditional standing in the cafeteria watching the kids
eat, tutoring, pacing the halls to make sure that the kids are behaving (the
kids can eat just about anywhere they want), supervising kids during open gym,
or in “interest groups.”  Most of the students ignore the activities we offer
and spend the lunch hour eating, gossiping, and walking around.          Kim

Before, during, AND after school.  Before and after my contract time
with no extra compensation.  Also, lunch duty while I am eating lunch.     Kristin

Duties are part of the school day both for classified and certified
staff. At my old site, certified regular ed classroom teachers had 15 min. of
duty daily. At the current school (same district) we have 15 min. daily 3 days a
week for half the year and 2 days the other half. We are also expected to be
with our students every day after school until they are picked up, usually
another 10-15 minutes.                       Heidi

Fortunately, my school is big and with the number of teachers and staff
involved, we only have a bus duty or car duty for parent drop off and pick up
three or four weeks each year. Classroom teachers have to do their own recess
time, but the cafeteria has paid aides, so that helps.                Charmaine

We have before school duty, lunch duty, recess duty and after school
duty. I’m ‘dutied’ out.                     Jennifer

I am the school secretary at an alternative school. All of our teachers
have duty before and after school to supervise buses. We pay two to supervise
lunch, and they spread it among those who are interested in selling 15 minutes
of their lunch time. Our teachers have one hour before and 45 minutes after
school for their prep period. It kind of comes with the territory. I don’t know
what the contract says, other than they are allowed a 30 minute duty-free lunch.
On the other hand, I am a pastor in my other life. I don’t get paid for “extra
duty,” for hospital visits, pre-marriage counseling or funeral counseling for
members (non-members are a different story). I don’t get paid for all the extra
meetings I attend, preparation for those meetings, or preparing my sermons; nor
do I get paid for all the resources I buy to or access to get those things
accomplished.As a school secretary, I don’t get paid for the cell phone I often use to
contact my principal when she is at meetings and we have a crisis, for attending
planning meetings during the summer that affect my life as the school secretary,
for the bulletin boards I do, or the art projects I design for our reward time,
or for all the research I do at night and on weekends to find ways to benefit
our kids. I don’t know if teachers “should” have to do duty or not, but if they — who
know the kids best — don’t do it, who are we going to pay to do it?                 Jan

Not all duty is created equal. Some is air-conditioned, while others bake in the hot Texas sun. Some call for you to see 10-15 students, while others have you watching an entire gym or cafeteria of children. If I made one suggestion about duty to administrators, it would be to rotate duties. Five long, long years of watching kids pick the crust off their bread, mix milk with their orange juice and slurp cereal is more than ample for me. I’d gladly trade this AC’ed job for one outdoors.

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You know that old adage that just when you think you have it bad, you look at someone else’s situation and realize you have it pretty good? This blog was one of those cases for me. I loathe duty. I hate getting there earlier than normal. I hate that afternoon duty crosses over into my gym time. I begrudge that fact that I have to give up time to plan, clean and grade to watch young adults who should be able to control themselves. Or at least I did.

Now that I have seen that, as they say, the grass isn’t always greener, it’s not as difficult for me to give 1 hour each week (30 minutes each duty). I have a free lunch period of 30 minutes and no recess duty. Granted, we don’t get paid extra, but as Jan pointed out above, quite a few jobs come with extras that aren’t compensated.

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The truth of the matter is, we are there to make sure the kids are safe. We want them to have food, shelter, enjoy a bully free environment, and have time to see us for tutoring, questions or just to talk. We don’t want them to be hit by a bus or a car, and if someone choked on a chicken nugget, we want to make sure they cough it up and breath.

So, no. Duty is not fun. Sometimes is not enjoyable. It is, however, necessary.

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!

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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.

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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.

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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!