Kids Need Love

Kids Who Need the Most Love

 

This has been traveling around the internet quite a bit, lately.  Probably because it’s so true!

Everyone has reasons for their actions.  These reasons can be anything from anger to fear to a need for attention, to name a few.  Often, we see children act out more as they get closer to the end of the school year, or an extended school break.  We sometimes assume they are acting this way because they are excited for vacation, but some of them are actually feeling the opposite.  They are losing the teacher they have bonded with, the situation that has clear rules and boundaries, the place where they feel safe, even the daily meal they are given at lunch.

While it’s easy, as teachers, to assume the students are causing disruptions to be annoying, it’s often the opposite.

This is why it’s so important to connect with our students.  When we form bonds and connections with them, we learn more about them.  Once we truly know our students, we can better meet their needs.

How do we connect?

Chat with them between classes

Get to know their family – call home to introduce yourself at the beginning of the year

Find ways to praise them for effort

Incorporate their interests (even in a small way)

 

 

Celebrating With Our Classroom Family

My teammate is going to be a dad soon.  (Technically, he already is, since he has a 10 year old stepson, but he’s about to be the dad of a newborn!)  Since we like to think of our team as a family, the students and I have been planning a surprise party for him.

partyballoons

Each student created a page for a book to give him.  They wrote a piece or two of advice on one side, then drew a picture on the back.  Once they were finished, a student made a cover for the book and I bound it together.  Then, a couple of students wrapped it.

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DSCN6878

In addition, students created various decorations to be put up the day of the party.  They made paper chains, signs and dangly spirals.

The day of the party, I brought cupcakes, a parent supplied punch and the students put up the decorations.  It was clear they were excited – I started to think they were going to vibrate right out of their chairs as they waited for the time to decorate.

cupcakes

When the time came, the students put up decorations, and surprised their teacher with the party.

Why spend the instructional time to do something like this?  While this isn’t covered in standardized tests, I truly believe this was time well spent.  Creating a team/family atmosphere makes all the difference in our students’ learning.  When students feel connected, they are more likely to be invested in learning.  Some students don’t feel connected to others.  Humans need that connection.  Being part of a team is important to students.  If they don’t feel like part of a team in the classroom, they’ll find a different team to be part of.  This is the reason gangs get started.

By celebrating life events this way, students feel connected, and learn how to be part of a group like this.

Plus, what do you remember from school: that great lesson on drawing conclusions your sixth grade teacher did, or a party you held?

Giving Students Control of the Content

As most teachers do, I have a few students who are more difficult to engage in the content than others.  I find these students are often quick learners, who are uninterested in listening past the initial minutes of my lesson.

I was out for a run, listening to a podcast, when it hit me: I’m going to put those very students in charge!  Not in a “gotcha – see it’s not so easy being up in front, is it?” kind of way, but in a “let’s see if this gets you motivated” way.

Here’s the plan: our district uses a scripted curriculum, so it’s very clearly laid out.  I made PowerPoints for all of the lessons, so those are also clearly laid out.  I’m going to give one student the first day of reading to teach to the class, and a second student the second day.  The reading textbook splits the reading selection into two days, so this should work out nicely.  Their job will be to read the selection, in advance, then be ready to help the class with the reading and answering the questions.

I also have grammar lessons to be taught, so I’m going to use this same plan with a student who doesn’t like to complete the grammar assignments.  If she is teaching the grammar lessons, she might better understand them.  (Mind you, we’re talking after I’ve introduced it – next week, we’ll be doing superlative and comparative adjectives).

We’ll see whether this will work – I’ll update the blog after I’ve tried this a few weeks and see how it goes.  Last year, I had students lead lessons based on a random draw.  It was somewhat successful, but some students were uncomfortable being up in front of the class.  These students tend not to be shy, so I’m hopeful it will go well.

How do you keep students engaged in your classes?  What do you do with quick learners who check out halfway through the lesson?

10 Things I Love About Teaching

Having spent more of my lifetime teaching than not (yes, I’m THAT old!), I was thinking recently about why I love my job.  Here’s what I came up with:

10 – I am constantly inspired to keep learning. Because I have taught new grade levels, content, subjects and curriculum over the years, I have to keep learning.  As I received my new assignments over the years, it usually meant spending the summer getting up to speed on whatever I would be teaching in the fall.  Talk about keeping my brain nimble – I have taught (in no particular order): 6th, 7th and 8th grades, drama, social studies, language arts, science, math, reading, book clubs, gifted and talented, reading interventions, tech ed and journalism.  Each time my grade level or subject changed, I was challenged to gain new knowledge.

back to school

9 – I’m never bored.  I find middle school students endlessly entertaining.  I never know what my students will come up with next.  Sometimes, my kids ask a question that I never saw coming and I don’t have a good answer for it.  Or, their answer to a question is correct, but totally not what I expected.  Add in the crazy things they share with me in the hall before class and I find plenty of amusement throughout my day.

Ever gotten one of these?

Ever gotten one of these?

8 – If I need fashion advice, I have lots of fashionistas at the ready.  I can always count on them to let me know if what I’m wearing is good or bad.  Some children tell me outright, some tell me with nothing more than a look.  While I might think my shirt is all that, my students will quickly disabuse me of that notion.  On the other hand, it’s gratifying when a stylish young teenager compliments me on my style choices.  Since they’re able to spend so much more time studying the fashion magazines, if I pass muster with them, I must be doing okay.  (Or not – keeping in mind the glittery, sequined, neon choices they sometimes make!)

7 – Discounts!  Okay, so the discounts are usually on items I can’t afford, anyway, but it’s nice to know corporations value what I do.  We’ll just leave it at that.

6 – Answer keys.  One of the best things about being a teacher is being able to check your answer in the back of the book.  This allows me to look smarter than I am.  (No, I’m not above using that technique to convince my students that I’m smart!)  While I am okay with my students being smarter than I am (and they often are!) it’s nice to have the answers to the questions before I ask them.

5 – Being a teacher gives me something to think about on long runs.  Those times when I’m out on the road, all alone with my thoughts, it’s nice to have something to think about.  As I run along, I can ponder how to better teach a lesson, how to structure an upcoming unit, or how to reach a difficult student.  I’m never at a lack for thought-provoking material.  This comes in handy when I’m training for a half marathon!

run

4 – Taking a break.  While I love my job, there is something to be said for the feeling I get when it’s spring break, summer vacation or Christmas break.  Having time in front of me to sleep in, catch up on schoolwork or prepare for future classes is a welcome break from routine.  Most of the time, I’m good about following routines, but I’m just right-brained enough to enjoy a break from those very routines.

3 – Other teachers.  I love collaborating with other teachers.  It’s gratifying to meet with other teachers and solve problems.  I find we’re always better as a group than alone.  Working together, we become better teachers (and we’re lots of fun!)  Middle School teachers are awesome – we can get incredibly silly together.

2 – The Teacher’s Lounge.  I know – lots of schools have teacher’s lounges that include negative conversations and depressing talk.  However, at my school, it’s the total opposite.  The laughter rings out from our lunch times daily.  The teachers I eat lunch with are hilarious and we leave lunch time energized and ready to take on the afternoon with renewed vigor.  My classroom is across the hall from the lounge and I can state, unequivocally, every lunch hour is like that.  Hanging out with other teachers in my building is a genuine perk of being a teacher.

1 – Making a Difference.  No list of what I love about teaching would be complete without this statement.  I make a difference.  As students move on to other grades and other buildings, some will write me a note, or tell me in person.  Sometimes, it’s not until years later.  I’ve had students who came back to observe me as part of their teacher training tell me I’m the reason they wanted to become a teacher.  This is the most important reason I’m a teacher.  I can change lives.

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I love my job.