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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Who's driving the car?

There has been massive craziness going on at my school, and perhaps in my whole district. You know the saying, "When you fail to plan, you plan to fail?" Maybe that needs to be posted out in front of the school.

Everything is short notice. THIS is happening tomorrow. I need THAT by the end of the day. THE OTHER is due an hour from now.

This particular week is a 3-day week for us in Dallas ISD. We had a student holiday/staff development day on Monday, and Friday is elementary school Fair Day. So we get 3 days with the students. The students who aren't out sick, anyway.

But then we're told that several of us are going to be required to attend an off campus subject-level meeting today, on Wednesday. Granted, we were told this LAST week, not just yesterday, but we were also told that somebody would cover our classes and teach the kids in our absence.

That was changed, and instead my kids just went to the auditorium to watch a movie from 1:45-3:00, along with all of the other kids whose teachers got pulled out for one of these meetings.

Talk about a waste of instructional time!!

Then there was the whole fiasco of what the meetings were actually going to be ABOUT! We knew that there would be discussions of the common assessments that were given about 3 weeks ago. But yesterday we were told that we had to compile all of the data for percentage wrong on each question. Then today, we were told that we needed to know percentages for each answer choice.

By the time I left the school, I didn't even have any of the data and felt like I was walking blind into the meeting.

Thankfully, the meeting was pretty good, the teachers there shared a lot of good strategies and we all agreed that the test was pretty poorly made and poorly timed. :)

But I lost out on quite a bit of time with my kids that I really needed to review for their 6-weeks assessment tomorrow! (Did I mention that this 3 day week comes at the very end of the first grading period?)

Also, I was almost the only guy in the whole building wearing a tie. I'm just saying. The dress code is NOT enforced everywhere...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Adventures at the Taco Bell

I thought for quite a bit before writing this post today. I certainly don't want to come across as seeming immodest or bragging, but I went through a very unique experience today (at least for me), and I really wanted to blog about it.

I might possibly have saved a guy's life today.

OK, there, I said it. There's the immodesty part of the post. Sorry.

Today was a student holiday/staff development day. We sat in the cafeteria all day long while we had a math meeting, watched some required videos, filed papers in students' cumulative folders, etc. When it came time for our lunch break, my colleague, Mrs. Math, and I went to the nearby Taco Bell for some delicious and healthy food.

We had eaten our food and were sitting around talking when I started hearing some odd sounds coming from someone behind me. Progressively louder burps, odd gurgling sounds, throat clearing, and so on. At one point, I whispered to Mrs. Math, "What the heck is going on behind me?" Instead of saying something along the lines of, "Some weirdo making disturbing sounds," she started describing the wallpaper behind the guy.

Not long after, the sounds started really getting to me, so I suggested that we leave. As we stood up, the sounds from behind became markedly more choking-like, and I turned to see the guy. He was definitely choking and turning red.

I don't really remember what I asked the guy -- I know I didn't say, "Are you choking?" like you're supposed to. I think I just said, "Are you ok?" But it was clear that he wasn't.

I think of the Heimlich Maneuver in the same way I think of CPR and driving stick shift -- I know how to do these things IN THEORY. Actually putting them into practice is another matter, though.

It was pretty obvious that this guy needed help fast, however, so my worries about breaking a rib were short-lived, and I stepped over to the guy and did my best version of the Heimlich on him. The first thrust seemed to work, as a lot of crap came out of his mouth. But when I pulled away and asked if that got it, he shook his head vigorously. So I did it a couple more times, finally getting a little more out.

And that was pretty much it. The guy thanked me, he actually offered to pay me, I declined, and we left.

And to think, we probably would have had a boring old time had we gone to Subway instead...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Web sites to help kids

I got a tip from Adrienne Carlson at Forensic Science Schools about a post she recently wrote entitled, "100 Tools to Make Your Kids Math and Science Stars."

I thought it was pretty neat. I only have one working computer in my classroom, and it runs at about the speed of mud. But I might just jot a few of these math sites down for any kids in my class who have working internet at their home or who can use the computers at the library. I especially found the math section of websites helpful.

Also, we're only 2 FoLMeGs away from 100! Step right up and join the club!!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

It'll cost ya

This afternoon, one of my kids had been jangling a quarter around in his pocket (which always annoys me). As I was walking around the room, I noticed that he had placed the quarter on his desk. So as I walked by, I picked it up, put it in my pocket and as I walked away, I said, "Thanks for paying me 25 cents for being such a good teacher! Tomorrow, bring a ten dollar bill."

The kids all laughed, and we carried on. I totally meant to give him the quarter back at the end of the day. Unfortunately, I forgot. Oh well. We'll see if I remember tomorrow...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

rearranging your classroom

About a month ago, I submitted an article to titled Rearranging Your Classroom -- 3 Tips for Teachers at the Beginning of the School Year. Yesterday, I received word that the article had gone live.

Please surf on over and check it out, maybe pass it on, maybe leave a rating or two...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Well at least I haven't heard THAT!

As we enter the 5th week of school (and half my class is out sick -- not to mention the principal, the CRC, the nurse, and several other teachers), I realize that many and most of my posts here on my blog have been negative, complaining, or at least depressing. There's no doubt that I am having a rough year, but this blog is supposed to be about the OCCASIONAL rant, not the rant as norm.

Therefore, it's time for some humor. Or at least some attempted humor.

I thought I'd put together a little list of things that, despite all else, I haven't heard my kids utter this year. Yet.

1) What the heck are numbers?
2) Why is there green stuff shooting out of the toilets?
3) I think I should like to place myself in time-out, thank you very much.
4) This pencil is clearly of the finest quality!
5) What are those 2 lines? (referring to the equal sign)
6) My mom says if somebody spits on me, I should spit on them. (Oh wait, I DID hear that one this morning, from a little girl getting off the bus.)
7) Mmmmm!! Sloppy Gummy Bear Joe for lunch!!
8) Which end of the crayon colors?
9) Mister Teacher, I read your novel, Learn Me Good, this weekend, and it was awesome!
10) My parents let me have coffee and chocolate cake for breakfast!!
11) How much for your whole collection of markers?
12) Does this look infected to you?
13) Is Tequila a noun or a verb?
14) Par-kor!!
15) Let's play Golden Girls! I'll be Blanche!
16) The world is going to end in 2012 anyway, so why do we need to learn math?
17) My mortgage is killing me!
18) Something inside my desk is moving.
19) Kanye West is a jackass.
20) I got that question right. Where are the free hot dogs?
21) Edward or Jacob?
22) I lost a toe this weekend, doing long division.
23) Uh, I was told there would be no math.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Down with the sickness?

Is it just me, or has this been the worst year for health in the classroom? I have not felt well since school started on August 24th. I've had a persistent cough, alternating runny/stuffy nose, watery eyes, and a general head fog. Yet I don't think I have a cold or flu or ebola -- I think it's just allergies from my really really awful classroom.

Of course, it's not that true sickness is not going around, so I could be mistaken. 3 of my homeroom kids were out sick yesterday, along with one girl from my afternoon class. Plus one boy who has been IN class for the past two days, but making loud retching sounds before I finally convinced him to go to the bathroom if he was going to throw up.

I had to stop my whole morning class yesterday and do guided practice on how to cough and sneeze into the crook of your elbow, and NOT into the general air supply, as had been the norm.

Here in Dallas, there are people dying from Swine Flu, regular flu, AND West Nile Virus!! I just want to survive the school year!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

It's kind of a "chugga-chugga-chinka" sound

You know how when you take your car into the mechanic because it's making that weird sound, but then it doesn't actually make that sound while you're at the mechanic's? Or when you go to the doctor because something is really bothering you, but then it's fine for the duration of the office visit?

Well, I had the kid-equivalent version of that today.

We have a math coach at our school for a couple of days a week this year, and after meeting with her yesterday, we arranged for her to observe my class today. I wanted her to especially see my misbehaving, non-attention-paying, low academic afternoon class.

And wouldn't you know it -- that class was spectacular today! They were explaining things, they were using math words, they were participating... they were even behaving better than usual.

Of course, there were a couple that were far less than perfect. My ADD boy has for some reason developed loud hiccups for the past couple of days, and apparently they are contagious, as another child started mid-class as well.

But overall, the kids did as they were asked, they gave good answers to my questions while going over homework, and they seemed to listen.

The coach told me later, "You have some great kids!"

While I certainly never want to nay-say a comment like that, I still had to protest just a bit, saying, "But they're not usually like that!!"

Overall, though, it made for a pleasant day.

In my morning class, the counselor did a guidance lesson on college and career choice, and the kids got a page asking what job they aspired to. I had several future doctors, soldiers, and teachers. I also had 2 girls (bright, in my opinion) write that they want to work at Jack-in-the-Box when they grow up.

Hey, ya gotta have goals, right?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Must be the rain

After several months of hot, hot weather, a still-hasn't-ended rainstorm started late Friday night. This brought the temperatures way down and made things a lot wetter. It also maybe (?) curbed some behavior problems I've been having.

Actually, I think it has a bit more to do with some other things I've been implementing. I've started a table competition, where each table (there are 6) starts with 10 tally marks on the board at the beginning of the day, and they lose marks through bad behavior, not showing work, etc, and they gain marks through participation, doing homework, etc. The table with the most tally marks at the end of the day gets an extra blue ticket per person.

My second class is slowly but surely shaping up. There are still a few talkers and kids who don't pay attention. But where it had been around 18 out of 22, now it's down to around 5 out of 22.

Academics is a slightly different story. I was not pleased at all with the scores on the test that the kids took last Friday. It was not a hard test at all, covering place value, number patterns, and number words. But out of 44 kids, only 4 got a perfect score, while 13 scored 50 or below. Most of the incorrect answers were made due to really really stupid mistakes. (Of course, I say "silly" mistakes in class -- but they are stupid mistakes like not adding correctly, or writing the wrong number down to add).

Oh well, I'll take what I can get and keep plowing the road ahead...

Friday, September 11, 2009

The voice of God

Let's see how I can spin this story. Um, yeah, I got it. Here goes...

At least 3 of my co-teachers on my hallway today got to have their kids experience "the voice of God" coming through their walls and/or doorway, and they were all able to use it as a teachable moment for their students.

In actuality, the sound they heard was MY voice, at pretty nearly the top of my lungs, shouting the name of my severe (and when I say severe, I mean the TOTAL opposite of non-existant) ADD student.

I guess I just didn't feel like wasting the rest of my class's time waiting for him to respond to me as I called his name in a normal, and then raised voice. Three times with no response seemed to be enough, so I just Lamberted him.

Teacher A, across the hall, told me that her kids all jumped in their seats when they heard me. She made me into the bogey man, threatening to send any misbehavors over to my room.

Teacher B, the farthest away, made a similar threat to her students.

Teacher C, who is right next door, told me that she had been having issues with her own kids. She kept asking them to get quiet, asking them repeatedly, until they finally got quiet. About 5 seconds later, they heard my yell come booming through the wall between classrooms. She didn't threaten sending anyone my way, but instead commented that if they kept up their behavior, MY kids would soon be hearing HER voice through the wall.

Professor Snape would NEVER survive at my school...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

OK, so it's not just me

I really don't know whether to feel relieved or more frustrated. I have 3 weeks' worth of evidence to show that my kids (mostly afternoon class) don't listen to ME. But now it's obviously not just ME that they don't listen to.

When a co-worker came by this morning to ask if I wanted to take the kids to the auditorium in the afternoon to watch a DVD of Obama's speech from Tuesday morning, I said heck yeah! A chance for the kids to hear the leader of the free world tell them that education is important and that they should pay attention and do their homework?? Yes, please!

So we went down there at 2 and watched the speech. Or, more accurately, I watched my kids shift, look around listlessly, play with their hands, and steal glances at me every 6 seconds.

There were a few that were paying attention. One of my top students asked afterwards, "So, I should not give up? I just need to ask you for help?" Well, yeah!

Now if only Mr. Obama could talk to my kids about number sense. Oh wait, they wouldn't listen to him. But still, I could use some help. Especially with the kid today who could not show me what three hundred eighty-four looks like in standard form. He sat and stared, and so I finally asked him to write three hundred and then add eighty-four to it. The kid could not write 300...


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

I done been interviewed!

Over the summer, I got an interview request from Alex J Mann, who was looking for some answers about what makes teachers tick. Being that it was over the summer, and thus I had not yet encountered my hellions from the Chat Lagoon, I was able to answer his questions relatively open-mindedly.

Alex posted the interview yesterday at the Certification Map site. If you're interested in answering similar questions, Alex may still be looking for interviewees.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Stay in school -- what's the problem??

The White House has already released the text of President Obama's speech to school children that he will be giving tomorrow. For some insane (and inane) reason, the very idea that he is talking tomorrow has thrown many people around this country, and unfortunately, even moreso in my state of Texas, into a crazy-headed tizzy.

I am about as A-political as they come. I don't like politics, I never have, I feel it's a bunch of muckracking and mudslinging. However, this fiasco is too much.

Did anyone in their right mind actually believe that Obama was going to address health care reform to a group of kids? Or that he would try to recruit them over to the Democratic party? It's a "Stay in School!" speech, for Pete's sake!! What could possibly be wrong with having kids see the leader of our country talk about the importance of an education???

Don't answer that! PLEASE! Just, please read the text below and see for yourself that it is a fine, un-politically-biased speech, with no mention of Iraq, health care, Ted Kennedy, or Major League Baseball steroids abuse...

OBAMA: Hello, everyone — how's everybody doing today? I'm here with students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. And we've got students tuning in from all across America, kindergarten through 12th grade. I'm glad you all could join us today.

I know that for many of you, today is the first day of school. And for those of you in kindergarten, or starting middle or high school, it's your first day in a new school, so it's understandable if you're a little nervous. I imagine there are some seniors out there who are feeling pretty good right now, with just one more year to go. And no matter what grade you're in, some of you are probably wishing it were still summer, and you could've stayed in bed just a little longer this morning.

I know that feeling. When I was young, my family lived in Indonesia for a few years, and my mother didn't have the money to send me where all the American kids went to school. So she decided to teach me extra lessons herself, Monday through Friday — at 4:30 in the morning.

Now I wasn't too happy about getting up that early. A lot of times, I'd fall asleep right there at the kitchen table. But whenever I'd complain, my mother would just give me one of those looks and say, "This is no picnic for me either, buster."

So I know some of you are still adjusting to being back at school. But I'm here today because I have something important to discuss with you. I'm here because I want to talk with you about your education and what's expected of all of you in this new school year.

Now I've given a lot of speeches about education. And I've talked a lot about responsibility.

I've talked about your teachers' responsibility for inspiring you, and pushing you to learn.

I've talked about your parents' responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and get your homework done, and don't spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox.

I've talked a lot about your government's responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren't working where students aren't getting the opportunities they deserve.

But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.

And that's what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself.

Every single one of you has something you're good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That's the opportunity an education can provide.

Maybe you could be a good writer — maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper — but you might not know it until you write a paper for your English class. Maybe you could be an innovator or an inventor — maybe even good enough to come up with the next iPhone or a new medicine or vaccine — but you might not know it until you do a project for your science class. Maybe you could be a mayor or a senator or a Supreme Court justice, but you might not know that until you join student government or the debate team.

And no matter what you want to do with your life — I guarantee that you'll need an education to do it. You want to be a doctor, or a teacher, or a police officer? You want to be a nurse or an architect, a lawyer or a member of our military? You're going to need a good education for every single one of those careers. You can't drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You've got to work for it and train for it and learn for it.

And this isn't just important for your own life and your own future. What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you're learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.

You'll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment. You'll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free. You'll need the creativity and ingenuity you develop in all your classes to build new companies that will create new jobs and boost our economy.

We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don't do that — if you quit on school — you're not just quitting on yourself, you're quitting on your country.

Now I know it's not always easy to do well in school. I know a lot of you have challenges in your lives right now that can make it hard to focus on your schoolwork.

I get it. I know what that's like. My father left my family when I was two years old, and I was raised by a single mother who struggled at times to pay the bills and wasn't always able to give us things the other kids had. There were times when I missed having a father in my life. There were times when I was lonely and felt like I didn't fit in.

So I wasn't always as focused as I should have been. I did some things I'm not proud of, and got in more trouble than I should have. And my life could have easily taken a turn for the worse.

But I was fortunate. I got a lot of second chances and had the opportunity to go to college, and law school, and follow my dreams. My wife, our first lady Michelle Obama, has a similar story. Neither of her parents had gone to college, and they didn't have much. But they worked hard, and she worked hard, so that she could go to the best schools in this country.

Some of you might not have those advantages. Maybe you don't have adults in your life who give you the support that you need. Maybe someone in your family has lost their job, and there's not enough money to go around. Maybe you live in a neighborhood where you don't feel safe, or have friends who are pressuring you to do things you know aren't right.

But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life — what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you've got going on at home — that's no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That's no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That's no excuse for not trying.

Where you are right now doesn't have to determine where you'll end up. No one's written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.

That's what young people like you are doing every day, all across America.

Young people like Jazmin Perez, from Roma, Texas. Jazmin didn't speak English when she first started school. Hardly anyone in her hometown went to college, and neither of her parents had gone either. But she worked hard, earned good grades, got a scholarship to Brown University, and is now in graduate school, studying public health, on her way to being Dr. Jazmin Perez.

I'm thinking about Andoni Schultz, from Los Altos, California, who's fought brain cancer since he was three. He's endured all sorts of treatments and surgeries, one of which affected his memory, so it took him much longer — hundreds of extra hours — to do his schoolwork. But he never fell behind, and he's headed to college this fall.

And then there's Shantell Steve, from my hometown of Chicago, Illinois. Even when bouncing from foster home to foster home in the toughest neighborhoods, she managed to get a job at a local health center; start a program to keep young people out of gangs; and she's on track to graduate high school with honors and go on to college.

Jazmin, Andoni and Shantell aren't any different from any of you. They faced challenges in their lives just like you do. But they refused to give up. They chose to take responsibility for their education and set goals for themselves. And I expect all of you to do the same. That's why today, I'm calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education — and to do everything you can to meet them. Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, paying attention in class, or spending time each day reading a book. Maybe you'll decide to get involved in an extracurricular activity, or volunteer in your community. Maybe you'll decide to stand up for kids who are being teased or bullied because of who they are or how they look, because you believe, like I do, that all kids deserve a safe environment to study and learn. Maybe you'll decide to take better care of yourself so you can be more ready to learn. And along those lines, I hope you'll all wash your hands a lot, and stay home from school when you don't feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter.

Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it.

I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work — that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star, when chances are, you're not going to be any of those things.

But the truth is, being successful is hard. You won't love every subject you study. You won't click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won't necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.

That's OK. Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who've had the most failures. JK Rowling's first Harry Potter book was rejected twelve times before it was finally published. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and he lost hundreds of games and missed thousands of shots during his career. But he once said, "I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

These people succeeded because they understand that you can't let your failures define you — you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time. If you get in trouble, that doesn't mean you're a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to behave. If you get a bad grade, that doesn't mean you're stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying.

No one's born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work. You're not a varsity athlete the first time you play a new sport. You don't hit every note the first time you sing a song. You've got to practice. It's the same with your schoolwork. You might have to do a math problem a few times before you get it right, or read something a few times before you understand it, or do a few drafts of a paper before it's good enough to hand in.

Don't be afraid to ask questions. Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn't a sign of weakness, it's a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don't know something, and to learn something new. So find an adult you trust — a parent, grandparent or teacher; a coach or counselor — and ask them to help you stay on track to meet your goals.

And even when you're struggling, even when you're discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you — don't ever give up on yourself. Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.

The story of America isn't about people who quit when things got tough. It's about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best. It's the story of students who sat where you sit 250 years ago, and went on to wage a revolution and found this nation. Students who sat where you sit 75 years ago who overcame a Depression and won a world war; who fought for civil rights and put a man on the moon. Students who sat where you sit 20 years ago who founded Google, Twitter and Facebook and changed the way we communicate with each other.

So today, I want to ask you, what's your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?

Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I'm working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn. But you've got to do your part too. So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don't let us down — don't let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.

THAT'LL teach 'em!

Today, we have a guest post from Adrienne Carlson, who writes for Online Degrees. Her post is called "How to Deal with Difficult Parents," and it may very well offend some people, especially a few people who read Joanne Jacobs...

People who recognize this article as being written sarcastically and totally tongue-in-cheek, however should be just fine. On a personal note, I would never recommend doing what is suggested in this article, but then again, I would never recommend drilling a hole in your head either, so use your own common sense.

How to Deal with Difficult Parents

If you’re a teacher of toddlers or very young children, there are times when you’ve probably felt that it is easier to deal with the most difficult of students than to interact with their pushy parents. You can control the kids with the threat of disciplinary action and a commanding voice, but when it comes to parents who just have to interfere in every tiny aspect of their child’s life and micromanage it to the point where they feel that they have to control you, his or her teacher, you find yourself struggling to hold on to your temper and avoid blurting out words that you’ll definitely regret a while later.

But then, the frustration stays, and you end up stressed out and sapped of all your energy when you have to deal with more than one of this kind, so you need a strategy that you can put to use when confronted by interfering parents who are never going to believe that their precious child is in good hands with you. And to this end, here’s what you can do to improve your mood and look at the lighter side of teaching children:

If you’re interrupted during class, leave the parent in charge of your kids for just five minutes while you hide behind the door and watch them try to control the resultant mayhem. Perhaps this will teach them a lesson or two about managing a whole bunch of kids and also drive home the message that it is definitely not an easy job to control a group of tiny tots.

If you’re cornered after class, grab a screaming kid who’s been giving you trouble all day and ask the parent in question in a sweet voice if they would mind calming him/her for you. Sugarcoat the request with a sycophantic statement as to how you know their excellent parenting skills will come to the fore in helping you out with this crisis.

If you’re ambushed before class, drag the parent with you to the classroom under the pretext that you have no time to spare and ensure that they spend at least an hour on one of those tiny chairs, listening to your kids recite nursery rhymes or engage in some other activity. Only when they feel that that they can no longer feel their butts underneath them should they be allowed to leave. Until then though, hold them there with a smiling face that says you’ll be with them in just a moment to talk about the issue they brought up in the corridor.

Pushy parents are a teacher’s nightmare, but if you know how to deal with them cleverly and without losing your temper, you know you have the job of your dreams.

This guest article was written by Adrienne Carlson, who regularly writes on the topic of online degrees . Adrienne welcomes your comments and questions at her email address:

Thursday, September 03, 2009

No stupid questions

Yesterday, as we were completing our word problem of the day, I asked the kids if there were any questions. No hands went up, yet I knew that everyone had not quite gotten the concept because the solution required subtraction and a lot of kids had added.

So I told the kids that I wanted them to know that no one was going to laugh at them if they asked a question or said that they didn't understand. That no one was going to think that they were dumb for asking a question. That the only dumb thing would be if they did NOT understand but sat there without asking me to explain and then still didn't know for the next time.

Then I asked again if there were any questions. One boy raised his hand, and I called on him.

"Can I bring a soccer ball tomorrow?"

OK, that thing about no stupid questions? Nevermind.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Am I being too stubborn?

My afternoon class is still giving me fits. Today, we didn't cover nearly as much in that class as we did in the morning class. Mainly because I had to keep stopping the class to discuss rules and expectations.

I start to wonder if I am being too stubborn. I know that some teachers continue through a lesson, hitting all the key points, getting the meat of the matter covered, even if some kids are off task or not paying attention. And it works fine for them, and they are good teachers. But that has just never worked for me. If I see anyone, even just one kid, not paying attention when we are going over homework or a concept, I feel compelled to stop and get him focused. As a result, I often take longer or find myself behind with certain classes.

With THIS class, I feel like I am getting WAY behind! I ask for someone to share an idea, and as soon as that person starts speaking, 2 other people across the room start talking to the person next to them. I say, "Excuse me, the rule in this classroom is that we listen when others talk. She is talking right now, so you need to be listening to her." But then less than a minute later, the exact same thing happens again. And again. And it's not exaggerating to say that nearly every single time someone (including myself!) starts to talk in my class, I have to stop the person (or myself!) and remind kids about our number one rule!

I just don't know how I can make this expectation any clearer! I have signed behavior folders of kids who break the rule. I have rewarded kids nearby who show good listening. I have modeled, we have discussed.

I feel like I am being the meanest, most hard-ass teacher on the planet, YET it still doesn't seem to be having an effect! I had hoped that by being so stubborn and hard-ass at the beginning, that I would stop the problem from being a year-long problem. And maybe it will. But I just feel like nothing is improving.

I am thankful to a good friend who teaches next door, who stopped by after school and said that her friends always remind her that she says her kids are the worst behaved, most awful, most annoying kids ever -- at the beginning of each school year. But that things always get better.

Maybe I'm just forgetting how every year starts. I really really hope so.