Monday, September 17, 2007

The Meaning of a Name

I like to think that one of the reasons that misbehavior, violence, and gang activity are so prevalent in the population I teach is due to a lack of meaning in my students’ lives.

When children grow up without learning to value themselves and positive things in their lives (Or without having positive things to value) it sometimes manifests in the devil-may-care attitude that many ED kids possess. If a student doesn’t value himself, then no amount of positive behavior management or negative consequences can make that kid buy into the school system.

My goal for the year is to help each student realize and recognize some of the meaning in their own life. I’m not looking for huge changes, but hopefully a decline in the most dangerous and risky behaviors that my students often display.

I started the “Meaning”ful goal in a very literal way this school year. For each student I adhered a name tag to their desk with the researched meaning of their name. I was surprised with how tickled many of my students were, they walked around the classroom reading their meanings and the meanings of their classmates. Most of the students thought it was cool, and one students asked me to look up his middle name as well.

What interested me, is that several different names had a similar meaning of leader, king or teacher…and all the meanings were positive.

It’s a small start, but at least it was a positive one!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Golden Rule(s)

I was recently asked by a reader about my rule policy. The Vegas Art Guy asked:

“Did you have lots of rules that you enforced or did you just have a few set in stone that were never to be broken?”

One of my biggest mistakes as a first year teacher was to copy the rules that another teacher had posted in their classroom, and merely hang them up in my room. The rules were the classic set; keep your hands to yourself, ask if you need to leave the classroom, no cursing…etc. I referred to the “class rules” a few times during the first few days of school…but didn’t review them nearly enough. And I suffered all year for it. When veteran teachers advise new teachers to really spend three weeks going over class procedure—they have the right idea! A month spent early in the year on giving students orientation and limits saves so much time in the end!

This year I started the students off with discussing the difference between rules and expectations, and we came up as a class with a set of classroom expectations. The first day we came up with general classroom expectations, the following day we came up with fair computer expectations and the next day we did the same for quiz/test expectations. We did it all, as a class and expressed both teacher and student’s issues with the limits. The only issue is the idea of rules is so ingrained in my mind, I keep slipping up and trying to call the expectations rules and have to be corrected.

The classroom rules we came up with were:

I will not be pressured by the bad behavior of others.
I will allow other the personal space to succeed.
I will respect myself and others.

It’s three umbrella expectations that all other rules fall under. We discussed as a class what respect is, what it sounds like, and looks like…and really gave a depth of though to what is expected in class from both staff and students. (I’m sure my paraprofessionals were thrilled when I mentioned that classroom rules were meant for both students and staff) And even though it’s still the honeymoon period I’ve noticed a huge difference between my student’s actions this year. It’s a smaller amount of rules, so I think they’re easier to manage…but I also have a separate form of rules for different procedures in the class. And the main three are set in stone.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Good news for 1st year teachers: 2nd year is better!

Well, so far my second year of teaching doesn’t suck. In comparison to my first year, it’s heaven! I haven’t burst into tears at all! I feel busier, but also more confident in my abilities, and I’m definitely up to the challenges the new year brings. I have slightly older students (9th graders that have failed a few times and 10th graders who haven’t passed NY standardized testing) and they are highly functional with an average reading level of 7th grade! Compared with the 3rd grade reading levels from last year…I’m in academic heaven! However, the beginning of the year is always the busiest for me (I haven’t left my school before 4:30PM yet) so I’ll need to leave this entry short and give you a quick run down of how the second year is way better than the first year of teaching.

Why the 2nd Year of Teaching is Just Plain Better:

-I know where the copy-basket is.
-I know who I can bother to get copies really fast.
-Students can’t accuse you of being a first year teacher. (Somehow they can smell it on you, the first year)
-I hold actual conversations with other teachers…That’s right, they bothered to learn my name after I stuck around for a year. I feel like I’ve been initiated into a club after a full year of hazing.
-Already, I have dozens of lesson plans I can use for the kids without any extra work.
-Word has spread from my old students to my new students, and they have a pretty good idea about who I am, and what I am about.
-I know the names of the security guards.
-I’ve beaten the classroom rules and expectations into the grounds with my students.
-I have a better idea of what students I can push, and which ones I shouldn’t bother.
-I’m ok with giving the students break time, and for the most part they meet me half way and complete work.
-I know the power of using games for learning. Seriously, with a little ingenuity any lesson can be tied to a game, and once you have the kids playing…they buy into the lesson more.
-I’m friendly with the IT staff, and they are very helpful.
-I’m taking less crap from paraprofessionals and asserting myself more.
-I haven’t said anything undiplomatic to administration.
-There are other new teachers! I’m not the lowest man on the totem pole!
-I have positive relationships in place with students outside my classroom. When students in my class who don’t know me see that their peers respect me, I’ve found that it guides their perception of me in a positive way.
-Already I have at least 50% of the school supplies I’ll need for the year.
-I know the janitors’ names, and we’re on good terms.
-I’m more able to discern truth from lie 40% more often, and can usually tell when I’m being BSed.
-My voice doesn’t waver when I talk to parents on the phone.
-I haven’t had to call security yet for violence in my room.
eXTReMe Tracker