Posts Tagged ‘back to school’

The Excitement is Contagious

August 15, 2011 2 comments

It’s back to school time and the excitement is contagious. Members of my PLN are tweeting their wonderful ideas for this coming school year.  As I read their blogs, I borrow some ideas and links that I will share with my student teachers.

I am experiencing this excitement on a personal level as well. My son, @MrMatthewRay,approached his principal about using Twitter as a tool for professional development. Her receptive response spurred him to action and he is in the process of developing a presentation for the staff in his school.  Aside from that he is planning for his new class, intent on having them become bloggers, participate in the global read aloud, skype with another class and use flip and digital cameras to record their observations, work and to just take pictures.  My daughter, @teachallkids, just completed a user friendly IEP manual for the staff at her school. She went to advanced training in the use of the Smart Board and already wrote some interactive lessons for her students.  She also attended a class where she could learn to use her iPAD more effectively with her students.

As I read, watch and listen, I wonder how I fit into this.  Being retired, I don’t have the thrill of planning for a new school year for my staff and students.  That’s okay,though, I did it for many years, and though it was exciting and fun,I am glad that it’s not my responsibility any longer. I’m also grateful that I don’t have to worry about how the common core standards  fit into the curriculum of children who do not take standardized tests. Enforcing things that are not educationally sound for the students is over. Spewing “the party line” and saying things that I don’t believe is a thing of the past.  Truth be told, I don’t miss any of this.

What I realized is that, I do fit into the excitement of the approaching new school year.  Being retired I still  have the thrill of planning for a new school year, not for a school of staff and students, but for me.  So what will I do?  I want to be realistic in my expectations of what I can accomplish, so I will start small, hoping to surpass my goals and add to them as I go through this year. 

Since I work with student teachers,I need to do some planning for them. I want to expose them to the wonders of Twitter and the benefits of developing a PLN.  I hope to borrow my son’s PD on the topic so they can have a brief overview.  As part of their assignment, they will be asked to join Twitter and follow some people.   For each topic that we cover in our weekly seminar, I will ask them to find a blog that is related to it and share their thoughts  in their journal. I will encourage them to write a blog post once in a while. I will alert them to the chats that are available and hope that they partake in some. I will tell them about the free webinars and hope that one or two fit into their busy schedules.  I will introduce them to the incredible wealth of materials from @cybraryman1 and the world of advocacy from a parent’s perspective @specialedadvice.  I will ask them to think about how they can include their new found knowledge in the classes they are student teaching in, and in time, their own class. I know that during the term, more will come up and we will add to our bag of tricks.

So I guess, in planning for my student teachers, I outlined a plan for me as well.  Since teachers lead by example, I will do all of the things that I am asking them to do. We will learn from each other and with each other. Yes, the excitement is contagious and I, too, am looking forward to the new school year.


Back to School Books

August 16, 2010 Leave a comment

In my role as mentor to student teachers, I often find myself trying to share  practical skills with them; the things they don’t necessarily learn in their college courses but yet are so vital to their development as teachers.  To support their learning I send consistent forwards of relevant articles that I’ve come across as well as recommendations of  books that are “easy reads” and useful.

Periodically, through this blog, I will be doing the same.

Two books that I think are worthwhile “easy reads” for the novice or seasoned teacher, administrator or mentor are: 101 “Answers” for New Teachers and Their Mentors: Effective Teaching Tips for Daily Classroom Use by Annette L. Breaux and 7 Simple Secrets: What the BEST Teachers Know and Do by Breaux and Todd Whitaker. Both books share practical, easy to implement ideas and strategies to enhance learning for teachers and, in turn, their students. I am sure that you will find some tips in these books to add to your own bag of tricks.  I welcome your comments and feedback.

Tips for Teachers or What I’ve Learned in my Thirty Years in the Field

August 14, 2010 1 comment

This is a list that I give to my student teachers at the end of their semester with me. These tips  are divided into 6 categories: Professionalism,  Routines and Procedures: A Proactive Approach, Instruction, Working With the School Community, Working with Parents and Everything Else. I think that each tip has its own merit. Use what works for you and make them your own.  Throughout your teaching career you will be develop your own tips to add to your bag of tricks. Please feel free to share them in the comment section.  I look forward to hearing your wonderful ideas.


  • Remember that you are the teacher, not the children’s friend.
  • Children hang on everything that you say and do. Be careful how you conduct yourself at all times. Very little gets by them.
  • Be professional with all staff
  • Be at school on time.
  • Be on time to meetings.  Come prepared to take notes.
  • Dress like a professional. You are a role model for your students.


           Routines and Procedures: A Proactive Approach

  • Greet your students by name as they enter the classroom. Welcome them and set a positive tone for the day. Smile.
  • The children’s safety and well being come first.
  • Be very clear when you communicate your expectations to your students. Explain and teach the routines that you expect your students to follow. Practice them and re-teach them throughout the year. Have routines for everything, e.g., sharpening pencils, going to the bathroom, unpacking and packing books, where to put homework, etc,  and make sure that the children understand them.
  • Establish 3-5 general classroom expectations /rules with your students. Write them in a positive way. Most everything that you expect from your students will fall under one of the general expectations/rules. Post them in a prominent place in the classroom. Teach them, re-teach them and of course, model them.  Refer to them throughout the year.
  • Build a classroom community by establishing respect, tolerance and camaraderie amongst the students. Model your expectations  of them through your own words and actions.
  • Tell your students how you expect them to act when they are with another teacher, a substitute teacher, in the cafeteria, in the auditorium, hallway, school yard, etc.  Practice and model the expected behaviors. It’s worth the time and makes everyone happy.
  • Unless it is a matter of safety or something that must be solved immediately, you can always tell your students that you will get back to them. Make sure that you do, though.
  • Review rules and expectations before the activity. (e.g., rules for the rug, rules for working in a group, rules for getting on line to leave the classroom, etc.)
  • Catch children “doing good things” but make sure that you catch each child “doing good things.”
  • Smile and praise the children
  • Say what you mean and mean what you say.
  • Don’t make threats that you can’t or won’t carry out.
  • Don’t punish in anger, calm down first so you can be reasonable.
  • Never discipline a child in front of the entire group.
  • Don’t punish the entire class for the actions of one child.
  • Make sure there are a clear set of rewards and consequences for actions or inactions.  Make sure that your students and their parents understand them.
  • Children love stuff, have a prize chest with specific criteria of how the prizes are earned.
  • Give the students a warning when an activity is close to ending.
  • If routines are changing, whenever possible, let your students know in advance.
  • Make sure that your students have an identification card when they go on a trip. Laminate them and collect them after the trip, for use throughout the year. Practice how to use the card and what to do if the child gets lost or separated from the group
  • Give children very short breaks in between lessons (a minute, maximum) to stretch, talk, and get out of their seats, etc. Teach them what you expect, let them know how much time they have and practice with them.
  • Practice transitions so they are done quickly and efficiently.
  •  “Don’t pick up the rope or you’ll have a tug of war.”  Avoid the conflict cycle.  You are the adult and you have to break it.



  • Know the strengths of each child.  Try to teach them through their strengths.
  • Keep a digital camera with you at all times(make sure that the batteries work). Pictures are a great way to capture special moments in addition  to documenting the learning that is going on in the classroom.  (DATA)
  • Post the flow of the day daily. Children like to know what to expect. It also helps you to stay on a schedule.
  • When you ask a child if he/she understands, he/she will usually say “yes”.  Ask the child to explain whatever it is in his/her own words.
  • Write lesson plans, refer to them throughout the day  and keep them on your desk. Aside from them being a valuable tool for you, if  an administrator asks to see them, you know where they are.
  • Try to time your lessons.  Don’t teach too much in each lesson or make the lesson too long. Eventually you will develop an internal clock.
  • Laminate items that are going to be used throughout the year or that you want to use again next year. 
  • Leave things set up for the next day so you don’t have to do it when you arrive in the morning. (e.g. flow of the day, morning message, hw, etc,)
  • Have a folder of lesson plans for a substitute teacher. List special alerts of any children who may have them. Let the sub know the names of children who are responsible, who know routines and can tell the sub where the things are in the room.
  • Hallway bulletin boards should showcase work that is perfect unless you are showing  “ work in progress,” the steps taken to get to the final product.
  • Keep the bulletin boards in the classroom current. Make sure the work is dated. Showcase the work of all of the students.  Give feedback on post-its and attach them to the work.  Start with a positive comment, say what needs to improve and let the child know what the next steps are. Only saying good job or nice work does not give the child any feedback.


        Working with the School Community

  • Treat everyone as an integral part of the school.  Secretaries, school aides, custodial staff,      paraprofessionals, safety officers, food service personnel, etc, are vital to the functioning of the school and should be respected. Everyone is important and needs to be made to feel that way. Make sure that you impart this to your students as well
  • Make extra copies of materials for the teachers in your grade. Hopefully they will return the favor.
  • Remember that you are dealing with a lot of different personalities and perspectives; students, parents, staff and administrators. Be open to what others are saying.
  • If you meet with administration about something that you are upset about, come with a suggestion to remedy the situation. “Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.”


             Working with Parents

  • Be very clear when you communicate your expectations to the parents.
  • Call parents to tell them good things.
  • Periodically check the accuracy of the phone numbers on the emergency cards
  • Use a “praise sandwich” when speaking about  your students to their parents. Start with a positive statement, say what needs to improve and end on a positive note.
  • Every family does not have the same value system as you do.  Respect the differences. Listen and acknowledge what the family is saying. If what they are saying is totally contradictory to school or class rules, respectfully let the family know that what may work for them at home is not done in school .( In school we do it this way, of course, be specific)
  • If you are not comfortable meeting with a parent alone, ask the guidance counselor or an administrator to sit in on the meeting with you.  Have a pre meeting with them to brief them on the situation.
  • Always know what you want the outcome of a meeting to be. Bring the meeting back to the points that you need to make. Have a dated sign in sheet with the minutes of the meeting including the topic, concerns, results and next steps.  Keep this in a binder or folder.
  • Use a phone log when you call parents. Make sure it is dated and the name of the student and person you spoke with is listed on the log.  Write a brief synopsis of the conversation. This way you will have a record of what was discussed. Keep this in a binder or folder.


           Everything Else

  • If a child (children) are extremely difficult, sit down when you are calm and write a list of at least 5     things that are positive about that child. Try to look at that child through his/her positive characteristics. This is a good strategy to use for all of the children in your class. You will look at all of them differently and force yourself to think about them in a different light. Though this is time consuming, it really is a great strategy to use.
  • Ask questions.
  • Be introspective.  Learn from your mistakes but don’t beat yourself up when you make one.
  • Remember that you can always learn something from a negative experience.
  • Be reflective, caring and, don’t be afraid to take risks or to ask for help.
  • Remember that “I’m sorry” goes a long way.
  • If you get injured at work, know what forms need to be completed. Complete and submit them in a timely fashion. Even if you don’t think that you are hurt, all injuries should be documented.
  • Mark down all important dates on your calendar, staff conferences, open school, professional developments, work due, etc. Have a back-up calendar in case you misplace the first one.
  • Read the staff manual.  It should contain information about school policies and procedures, curriculum, etc.  If you are not clear about something, ask.
  • Find “experts” in your school and watch them teach.  Borrow their best practices.
  • Send home a supply list at the beginning of the year. Invariably you will run out of certain supplies. Either ask for more initially or send home a second list midyear. Ask for lots of tissues, paper towels, waterless hand cleaner, baggies, post it notes,  loose leaf paper, etc. If your school does not supply you with copy paper, ask for a few reams from each student.
  • Get an educator discount card from Barnes and Noble, Borders, Lakeshore Learning, Staples and any other store that you use that may offer a discount to teachers.  Ask in the store for their policy regarding educators.  Check for discounts on line as well.
  • Scholastic books has warehouse sales throughout the year.  Check their website for information.
  • Check out for wonderful, free materials.
  • There are lots of freebies on the internet, when you have time to look for them.
  • Instructor magazine is very user friendly and inexpensive. You can search for articles from Instructor on
  • Make sure that you eat lunch. Keep some non perishable foods at work, tuna (can opener, too), granola bars, crackers, etc.
  • Make time for yourself, your family and friends.  Even though teaching is a very time consuming profession, remember that it  is a part of your life, not your life.
  • Laugh and have fun!!!!