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Teaching is a demanding profession.  The perception that teachers work only 6 hours a day and have plenty of time off is NOT REALITY.  Teachers pour our hearts, souls, and, sometimes, our whole lives into educating our future.  Teaching can quickly become all-time consuming.  We can find ourselves (over) committed to school committees, coaching, assisting at sporting events, running after-school clubs, chaperoning dances, tutoring, advocating for education reform, reaching out to parents, participating in professional development, and so on.

Beginning teachers, for numerous reasons, want to get involved at school, drenching themselves in the school culture and all that comes with it.  Be careful novice teacher.  There is a balance that we all must find between our personal and professional lives, and this balance is different for each of us.  My advice is to take time for yourself and family, relax a bit, and reflect what your balance is.  Achieving balance among all aspects of your life: family, friends, love, hobbies, etc., is a struggle, but worthwhile.  Having a centered life will sustain you for the long-term, avoiding being burned-out or having troubles at home.  Ultimately, this balance will lead you to be a more effective teacher based on the premise that our personal and professional lives are – at a basic level – interwoven and trouble in one area will eventually affect other parts of our life.

Remember in these hectic days of September and October to keep perspective and acknowledge that it’s okay to put yourself first.

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Visit TheApple.com to enter to win my book, Road to Teaching: A Guide to Teacher Training, Student Teaching, and Finding a Job.  It’s really simple.  Good luck!

This a great book for aspiring teachers, student teachers, and job seekers.

Book Description

Maximize your teacher training, excel at student teaching, and find your ideal teaching job. This book addresses these unique stages of becoming an educator by providing 50 valuable strategies and insightful advice, allowing for a smooth transition from student teacher to exemplary teacher. Learn how to differentiate yourself through your coursework, create a positive relationship with your cooperating (master) teacher, establish effective classroom management, perform well in your interview, and much more.

Book link: Road to Teaching: A Guide to Teacher Training, Student Teaching, and Finding a Job

TIP – If placing students into groups either 1) give instructions BEFORE assigning students to groups, and/or 2) provide written instructions once students are placed in groups.  This will eliminate the need to raise your voice above the chatter,and repeat instructions a million times.  In the end, you maximize your precious instructional time.

A student teacher asked me when should he begin working with their CT?  The student teacher was a bit nervous because he is being placed in the Fall for his field service, and he has yet to learn who his CT will be. I explained it’s not time to worry. If he hasn’t learned of his placement by early-mid August (school starts in September), then he should contact the responsible party for his placement.

If he does learn the details, he should contact his CT as soon as possible to set-up a meeting. During this informal meeting, discuss expectations, students, curriculum, etc. At least this will give an opportunity to begin devising lesson plans and freshening up on the curriculum topics.

It’s likely that his CT will ease him into the classroom, allowing him to take a more active role over time and develop relationships with students. Maybe in a week or two the CT will then gradually hand over teaching. HOWEVER, this varies from CT to CT.

My CT was awesome. We worked together to set an appropriate pace for my involvement and taking control of the class. Also, I was able to have almost free reign over how I could deliver my lessons, creating an environment of experimentation of instructional best practices that I learned in my education training. On the other hand, some CT are not so easy to work with by limiting the amount of initial involvement student teachers have with their students and expecting their student teacher to follow their curriculum and instructional style. Regardless of who you get as a CT, just be sure to effectively communicate (the good and bad), keep a positive attitude, and take away as much from the experience as you, even if it’s not ideal.

Some Ideas New Teachers Will Want to Take to Heart

As a new teacher it can seem intimidating to find that you are at the controls of the destinies of so many.  By choosing to shoulder this burden you have undertaken a task that will affect the outcome of the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of individuals over the years.  Don’t let this outlook serve to weigh you down; like anything else there will be a learning curve, and a humble character will allow you to catch mistakes as you make them.

Teaching is thought of by some as an exact science.  But since people learn in so many different ways, finding effective means to reach them all can never be boiled down into a single formula. 

Remain Flexible

As you grow as a teacher, your perspective on many aspects of learning will invariably grow with you.  Remaining flexible means that you are allowing yourself to constantly examine your methods and tailor your approach as you learn on-the-fly.  There is no quicker way to put yourself in a tricky position than to remain rigid in your thoughts and preach them as though they were always going to be law. 

Change is the way of the world, and so it is with education as well.  The difference between standing for something and static decay lies in the humility with which you teach it.  Making sure your students understand that knowledge is always evolving will encourage them to continue learning in the future.

Take Responsibility

There is an aspect of responsibility that goes beyond being the one to blame when things are difficult.  Taking responsibility is a good thing – it alone enables you to make a difference in students’ lives.  Just as sure those who wish their whole life to lose weight, but never take responsibility for what they do with their bodies, will fail, you as a teacher must take responsibility for what you feed hungry young minds to ensure they are lean and physically fit.

Accepting this responsibility empowers you to alter the course of those who may be in peril.  It is a truly challenging task, but one that will reward beyond your greatest dreams when it comes to your effect on the society and humanity of the future.

This post was contributed by Claire Webber, who writes about the top online colleges. She welcomes your feedback at Claire.Webber1223 at gmail.com  

Student teachers have FUN.  When planning your curriculum, imagine yourself as that student.  Would this be a lesson that you would be interesting and engaging?  If the answer is no, then inject some FUN and be a little silly.  It’s okay!  Be experimental, which means taking some risk that the lesson won’t work.  So be it.  We are practitioners, always seeking better ways to connect curriculum to our students’ lives. 

Elementary and middle-school teachers do a much better job at this than high school teachers.  Loosen up already.  Think outside the box.  Do something that will surprise the students, capturing their attention.  All in all, learning can be FUN and academic.  Not to mention, its reenergizing for the teacher and keeps our content fresh.

I write in my book, Road to Teaching: A Guide to Teacher Training, Student Teaching, and Finding a Job, about when I taught a lesson on world poverty in my middle school Social Studies class.  To kick it off the issue of world poverty, I removed most of the students’ desks and chairs.  The remaining desks represented the rich, chairs represented the middle class, and the floor represented the poor.  The number of desks and chairs were proportionate to the breakdown on income levels of the world.  When my students entered the classroom they were immediately stunned and hooked.  Some wondered out loud, “Why are there only three desks in here?”  They were desperate to find out what they were going to learn.  The lesson that followed was rich and engaging.  The students “felt” the problem.  At the end of the lesson, one of my challenging students said “we should do something about this.”  I said “okay, what were you thinking?”  The following week the entire class and I went to a local soup kitchen, resulting in an awakening experience for many of the students.

There’s another benefit to having FUN.  Injecting a little FUN may get your noticed by your principal.  I remember the principal coming in during my poverty unit to see what all the buzz was about.  He loved the lesson.  This experimental lesson led to a glowing recommendation letter, which helped me land some teacher interviews.  Also, it was a great talking point when asked in an interview, “Describe a lesson that you felt went well.”  (click here for more interview questions)

Try something new this week and get noticed!  Have FUN!

Concern

In my district, I am evaluated twice.  Is that enough to identify areas of improvement, provide targeted professional development and feedback, and measure its impact on student achievement?  Absolutely not.

Evaluation as a Tool

Don’t wait or hope for administration to tell you how you are doing or what you can improve on.  Rather, use the single most important resource in your class: the student.  The student knows when they are learning, engaged, and in a productive learning environment.  Twice a semester (4 times a year) I ask my students to evaluate me on a series of criteria: curriculum, instruction, learning environment, teacher professionalism, and teacher support.  I do this for every class.  Sometimes I create a quantitative analysis from the results, but most of the time I can just look at the data/comments and get a feel as to how to improve.  I usually then jot down my thoughts and steps that I will take to improve.  It’s the only way I can remember it after a few weeks, plus it provides a record (baseline) that I can measure my progress against.

It’s a little unnerving at first, but the more I do it the easier it is.  Couple tips before implementing this:

  • Give a word about how you take this serious, using this data/info to change your practice.
  • Ask for constructive feedback, reinforcing the idea that they should not hold back.
  • Tell students not to write their names on the evaluations.
  • Have a student collect the surveys in a manila folder
  • Avoid giving this right after doing a REALLY FUN activity or bribing them with candy; this defeats the point

Problem/Solution

Once you receive this date, pick 1-2 items you can improve.  In my latest review, students ranked me lower than I would like in “listening to their needs.”  Problem is I start class right at the bell and I am off running, leading to little time for 1-1 student comments/concerns.   This is not to say I don’t address individual student needs, but its an ares that I can work on.  So, I decided to take action.  I decided to implement a question/concern box (wrote about this in my book) that I used in middle-school.  I have students put their questions (not related to curriculum or day’s objective), concerns, and/or comments in the box.  I then reply to the students within 24 hours, via note or call home.  It’s really effective, allowing for more instructional need and attention to the students’ needs.  Students are happier; not to mention, I am calling home more often, which is a positive.

I look forward to seeing how my students will evaluate me next round in this area!

Please see attached a copy of the evaluation I have my students use on me.  If you have one yourself, please email me (eric@road2teaching.com) and I will post it as well.

RESOURCES

Student evaluation of teacher effectiveness

P.S. If you are a student teacher, this is  great evidence of your ability to evaluate and reflect on your own practices.  Be sure to include your reflections in your teacher portfolio.

Here’s another recent comment about addressing poverty in the classroom!

Previous Post- “Poverty is a big problem! It does affect my students’ ability to learn. There are just some things teachers can’t solve”

I completely 100% disagree with this comment. I am a student teacher and am going through the program now and I believe that there are lots that teachers can do to ENCOURAGE their students. If having the mindset that teacher’s can’t solve some things, this is just an excuse to not give effort. Sure- teachers can’t solve or find an end to poverty, but for the number of student’s in their classroom teachers can do their part to ensure all students are having the opportunity to learn.

Creating an equal level playing field in the classroom is a good way that teachers can help. It is a good likelihood that student’s that are induced in poverty don’t have high self- esteem (this is not always the case) and we as teacher’s can do our part to make everyone equal. With the mind set that poverty affects student’s learning this is not providing the motivation and support they need! Student’s shouldn’t be given special treatment but they should have the same opportunities.

It is shown that fine arts is perhaps one of the best areas for student’s to be equal. Math and science are sometimes more difficult for these students as they may not have time to do homework or recieve help. Fine art is something that all students have a chance at and provides opportunity for everyone. If the teacher is worried about overty affecting the students learning- perhaps you could start a tutoring sesson at lunch and/or after school for ALL students. This way the students that are in poverty have the OPPORTUNITY to recieve help and again, it levels the playing field. Not all children get help at home, and some will most definitely need it.

Teacher’s that are concerned about their students need to go the extra mile to make a difference. If teacher’s want to make a difference then they must do their part to exceed and succeed. Pointing out the benefits and motivating all of their student’s to do the same… go the extra mile! Teacher’s CAN be the ROLE MODEL for these students. Yes, student mentors are great but so are teacher’s themselves because student’s can trust teacher’s and therefor, the teachers can be the role model.

Overall, every student needs to be given an opportunity and motivation and support! Teacher’s can TRY to make a difference! Even if it is to the two or three students in poverty in their classroom. Every little bit of effort helps!!

Do you have a comment?  Should teachers ignore poverty’s impact?  Click here to post your comment.

I was asked by a student teacher what books should she read to help shape her as a teacher.  She said it can range from inspirational to instructional-based.  I answered her, but I thought it would be better if I turned this question to this community.

What is your ALL-TIME favorite (teacher/education) book?  What type of impact did it have on you?

Leave your comment here or post it to the Road to Teaching reading group with Shelfari.  On Shelfari, you can share, recommend, and critique the latest books you are reading.  Click here to join; it’s free.

Link to our reading group discussion

Another way I have my students interact with vocabulary is creating crossword puzzles.  This can be done by hand or computer-generated.  Students write the definitions and construct their very own crossword puzzles.  Typically, I ask students to include prior vocabulary to continually build their vocabulary comprehension.

Then, I collect the students crosswords, without the answers, and re-distribute them to the students at random.  Students are required to complete the crosswords, again, interacting with and learning the vocabulary.

Finally, once the students have completed the crossword puzzles I have the students pair up with student that originally made the crossword puzzle, allowing them to discuss their answers.

RESOURCES

Improving Student Learning through Effective Vocabulary Instruction page

Create a Crossword Puzzle On-Line