Category: Blog Posts

Put YOU First

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Teaching will drive you crazy. Noisy and indisciplined children, extremely demanding administrators, and high expectations often leave the new teacher feeling overwhelmed. If we don’t keep ourselves in check and live balanced lives, the nuances of teaching will consume and devour us. Society portrays any actions or thoughts that focus on placing your needs first as being selfish and are, therefore, frowned upon. Teachers especially are expected to be the sacrificial lambs and consume all of their time and efforts with their students’ needs. Living in this way is a draining experience. It sucks the joy out of life and leaves you ill-prepared to deal with the demands of the classroom. Jada Pinkett-Smith posted a You Tube video in 2012 describing the importance of taking care of you first. Although she is speaking about her roles as a wife and mother, I believe that what she is saying in this video is highly applicable to teachers. Click this link to view the video.

Jada Pinkett-Smith’s Talk

As I mature in this profession I have grown to realize the importance of personal happiness. I’ve also begun to discover what it takes to achieve personal happiness. The following are some strategies I hope to employ next term in order to function better in the classroom.

Begin Your Mornings with Quiet Meditation

Meditation takes on a variety of forms. Whatever you choose to do, it is important to begin your day by clearing your head and embracing some positive thinking to face the day. I am often rushing in the mornings because I get up a tad bit too late. However, I am going to attempt to change this bad habit so that I am better equipped to face each day.

Eat Right and Exercise

Your health is of utmost importance. When your health fails, your boss will easily find someone to replace you. Take the time to eat healthy, balanced meals. Spend at least 15 minutes each day exercising. Don’t forget to take your vitamins. Your body will thank you for it and you will find that you rarely get sick. You will also find that you have more energy to deal with the rambunctious children in your class.

Carve out Some Me Time

Find time to do things that you enjoy. You can’t be so focused on work all the time. Relax. Take a breather. Enjoy life.

Read More

Advances in technology have resulted in us becoming technologically dependent individuals. We’re often glued to our phones scrolling through Facebook and Twitter. If we aren’t into our phones, we’re glued to our television screens or laptops. Find some time to unplug from the world and read a book. Reading opens your mind and helps you find a quiet center. Don’t focus exclusively on fictional books. Try to read some self-help books that will help you in both your personal and professional life.

Invest in Yourself

There is nothing exciting about a teacher’s salary. In fact, the amount teachers are paid covers expenses with just a tad bit leftover. Regardless, it is important for you to be wise with your money. Always pay yourself first before you begin to take care of your monthly expenses. Your dreams will become realities if you use this disciplined approach to saving.

 

It is possible to navigate the rugged teaching terrain with your sanity intact. Are there any other tips that you can think of that can help you be a happier teacher? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

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Incorporating Drama and Art into Math Education

Let’s face it. The traditional methods for teaching Math are absolutely boring. The teacher solves a few examples on the board and the students answer a few practice questions. End of lesson. The present generation of students actively resists this form of instruction. They want to do, see, feel, touch. They want to be involved. This TED talk by Ken Robinson aptly describes how stifling the school system is.

Ken Robinson’s TED Talk

As a young teacher who wants to have her students involved in lessons, there are some challenges that I face:

  1. How can I control the students so that they don’t make too much noise or get too enthused?
  2. How can the activities involve every student in the class?
  3. How can I find activities that every child will love?
  4. How can I find activities that they will enjoy, but that will also help them retain the information?

There are no simple answers to these questions. However, I want to begin finding ways to incorporate two subjects that students love, Drama and Visual Arts, in the Math classroom. I want to get the students to move, feel and become a part of the Math they are learning. As time progresses, I will post some lesson ideas on this site that feature elements of drama or visual arts or both. Hopefully this experiment will work well.

Dealing With Difficult Students

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Children will always test you. They want to know how far they have to go to push your buttons. They also want to know what they can get away with.  There are some students, however, who choose to be particularly difficult and disruptive. How you deal with these children can make or break your class. The following tips will help you deal with these students and control your class.

Student #1: The Wanderer

There are some students who just can’t sit still. When your back is turned while you’re writing on the board, they will get up and move to another area of the class. They may even randomly get up right before your eyes. Some strategies that can help you deal with the wandering child are:

  1. Give the child a designated space to walk in during the class session. If the child walks out of that assigned area, ensure that an appropriate sanction is meted out.
  2. Make your expectations clear at the beginning of each class for the first two to three weeks. The students should know that getting up out of their seats without your permission is prohibited and will result in them possibly having to stand in one position for the remainder of the class.
  3. Craft your lessons in such a way that the students are engaged in hands-on activities more often. This type of engagement will make it less likely for the child to wander.

Student #2: The Shouter

There are some students who will make random outbursts in the middle of your class. Some will also refuse to raise their hands before speaking out. It is important to constantly remind them that this type of behaviour is unacceptable. Say such things as, “Travis, you are speaking too loudly. I can hear you. Raise your hand and I will respond to your question.” Keep reiterating this point until you get the desired behaviour.

Student #3: The Aggressor

There are some students who always look for ways to spur on conflict. These are the students who need to be occupied at all times. Change the seating arrangement so that they are either sitting closer to you during the class or sitting in their own corners. Assign them to be the teacher’s helper so that they feel a sense of importance. Talk to them outside of the class to find the root cause of their behaviour and refer them to the guidance counselor if necessary.

Student #4: The Chatterbox

All children are chatterboxes at some point. They are especially talkative in classes where they lack interest. It is your duty as the teacher to make your lessons as interesting and relevant as possible so that the students don’t go off into their own worlds. If you have done this, but the students are still not settling then you need to rearrange the class. In the next class they will try to move back to where they want to sit, but you have to make it very clear that you won’t begin class until they are in their correct seats. Stick to it and you will see the difference.

 

There are many ways to deal with difficult students. It can be tempting for a frustrated teacher to tell them something negative. However, the best approach is to use the positive strategies outlined above. Find ways to work with them and your class will gradually become better.

The 5 Commandments for a New Teacher

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Being a teacher is hard. Expectations are high, resources are insufficient, and children are a handful. I have been a teacher for three years and the challenges of this profession have only increased with each passing year. Nevertheless, making a positive impact on the lives of young people is the greatest benefit of the profession. There are many days when I find myself thinking about my students as if they were my own children. My heart is full to the brim with love for each of them (even the most troublesome).

These past few months have taught me a lot about how to truly grow and make a lasting impact in this profession. I now live by what I like to call “The Five Commandments for a New Teacher”.

Commandment #1: Develop Healthy Self-Confidence

Your profession doesn’t define who you are. As a new teacher it is easy to be come frustrated by the fact that the effort you put out is not equating to great results. Don’t let the children’s results make you feel any less about yourself. Anything is possible once you believe. If you believe that your children can do well and you exude that confidence, they will do well. Children feed off a teacher’s energy. They want a strong, assertive teacher to lead them through uncharted waters. You can’t be that person for them if you doubt yourself. See their unimpressive results as a challenge to find creative ways to introduce concepts and make the learning experience fun.

Commandment #2: Listen to the Wise

You aren’t an island. Don’t be afraid to consult with senior teachers who have a wealth of experience. They were once new teachers. Therefore, they can provide you with tips and strategies to help you master the craft. Listen to their constructive criticism and put what they say into practice.

Commandment #3: Teach Better than Your Favorite Teacher

We all have at least one teacher who we absolutely adored during our time in school. My favorite teacher was my fourth form English teacher, Mrs. Wilmot-Simpson. We feared and loved her at the same time. She didn’t do anything out of the ordinary to convey the concepts to us, but when she taught I understood. She made me fall in love with the language. When I think about her I think about a strong woman who loved her subject. I want emulate her positive qualities in my own teaching so that my students can fall in love with Mathematics.

Commandment #4: Don’t Give Up

There will be days when you wonder if what you’re doing is making any impact. When those days come, make a conscious decision not to give up. The moment you give up is the moment you lose your impact. It’s also the moment when you begin to lose the respect of your students. Make it your point of duty each day to touch at least one child’s life. You may not be able to reach all of them, but always keep in the back of your mind that your efforts are not in vain.

Commandment #5: Do What Administration Says

The pressure that administration places on a teacher is often the straw that breaks their backs. Piles of paperwork, achieving high pass rates, and being an active member in the school community can become overwhelming. Do it anyways.

 

I am nowhere near perfect and I still face daily struggles. However, I believe that if we live by these commandments we can make a lasting impact on the children we teach.