Recently I have been the guest teacher in many classrooms and have been able to experiences grades K-3. Each grade level and classroom philosophy is unique and different. The only thing that is the same is the course of action for guided reading instruction.
A couple weeks back I stumbled across an article about guided reading. Honestly, I have no idea where I found it, or what I did with it (I thought I saved it). But a quote stuck with me from the article….
I find that with stations or centers, teachers are busy planning activities that keep students occupied so that they can do guided reading instruction. However, there are a few problems with this plan.
For me, the whole point behind literacy centers is to engage students in meaningful tasks that push their thinking. That give them time to practice skills they need to move them forward with their learning. If you are absent, while this learning is taking place, who is helping to guide students through the learning process.
Don’t get me wrong. I do like the guided reading model. I have read books on it and researched it online. Yet, I find myself in a place of upset when I am conducting guided reading because not only should I be at my table with the 3-5 students that I have seated in front of me, but I should also be with the other 15 left on their own.
I have found there are other more meaningful ways to meet with students. For example, during reader’s workshop, pulling a small strategy group of 3-5 students to work on a particular topic with them. Or sitting down at a station for a quick minute and reviewing a topic with students. Those moments can be just as meaningful if they are planned.
Start thinking outside the box. Using our time wisely is so important. And using the students’ time is important too. Find ways to get creative so learning is happening for all students.
To me, this quote was a showstopper.
I can honestly say I've said it myself - that we need to prepare our students for the real world.
But in reality, most of them are experiencing a world we will never understand.
We need to prepare them the best we can to fit into a world where technology is at the forefront.
Where life changes in a blink of an eye.
Where new jobs are being created that people 50 years ago never thought of.
I get frustrated when I see popular Instagram accounts where picture after picture is a cute new worksheet or activity that you can purchase off TeachersPayTeachers for your students to do.
Yet, those “activities” do not instill creativity.
In fact, they limit it.
Let’s look at education and see how we can change it for our kids.
I’ve said this once, and I know I’ll say it again, create small changes.
Take it step by step.
Put away the old worksheet you’ve brought out year after year and allow students to live in a world of creativity and innovation.
Where they are guiding their learning.
Filling their minds with possibilities by collaborating and researching.
Where they do not have to fill in the blank.
That is preparing them for the future
That is creating a better tomorrow for our youth.
In our fast paced society, we all live in a world that demands a lot of us. Adults have duel responsibilities – being an employee, parent, child, honest member of society, etc. We have a lot of expectations placed on us daily. Not only do adults have that large role, but so do children.
Children in today's society are asked to also partake in a world that is more than what they are capable of doing on their own. They are asked to sift through emotions that are greater than what they know what to do with. They are learning things that are more advanced that what they should be learning at their age. Children need time to be kids. But that time, to be a kid, is squeezed in between school, sports and other obligations.
When can children be kids these days? What are the expectations for them? We have expectations for them in school. They are to make a certain grade on things or else they are behind. We have certain expectations for them in sports so that they can be the star player or make the better team. But what are the expectations we have for them to be a kid? Do we allow them time to run and play? Or are they expected to partake in other activities that do not allow that.
Recently I did a long term in kindergarten and it was a challenge to fit playtime into their day. Some days I could squeeze only 15 minutes of playtime in. Eeek! For 5 and 6 year olds, play is the most important part of their day. It allows them time to socialize. And when I say socialize I don’t just mean talking – I mean learning how to play cooperatively, using their words to solve conflicts and being creative. So much happens during that short time period, except, we do not have the time to allow it.
Since children have so many expectations on them at school – allow their time at home to be freer. Do not sign them up for too many after school activities. Encourage them to play outside. Sit and talk with them – do not put them in front of the tv or ipad. Have dinner together. Talk about their day with them. Let them be a kid and teach them about life.
Saying goodbye is one of the most difficult things I think we have to do in life. It is difficult to say goodbye to the things we cherish most. My career, and the lives I touch, has always been one of those things – it’s my passion.
Currently, I am finishing my last three days of a long-term in kindergarten. For the past few weeks I have been reminding myself that I will be moving on and their teacher will be coming back. It’s been difficult for me to think that in a few days time I will not be the one taking care of them - watching them grow.
Although, I think the most difficult day was yesterday. One of my students came to me and said today was his last day. Me, being my usual positive self, I shared how exciting moving can be, it means meeting new friends and going to a new school. By the look on his face, he wasn’t buying it. So I asked him how he felt about moving he replied with bad. I said, “Will you miss me?” He said he would. I shared with him that I would too.
However, I also loving shared that all he has to do is think of me and know that I am thinking of him too. We will never be far away…all he has to do is wish me well and know that I am doing the same to him.
Tears still well up in my eyes thinking of that conversation.
My daily goal is to talk to all of my students individually. Not to give them a direction or to help them on an assignment but to actually make some kind of meaningful conversation. Whether it is about their outfit or how they did such great thinking – something that singles them out as an individual and let them know I care. I think we forget that we are in this for more than a paycheck or data points – we are in this for the betterment of humanity. It is because of that time I spend with my kids, building relationships with them, that they trust me and try their best. And when it’s time to say goodbye, it makes it all the harder.
But if saying goodbye means I touched someone’s life, then it’s worth every emotion.
Have you ever had that difficult student? That one who is constantly on your radar? You cannot let him/her out of your sight for a second because when you do, everything falls apart. Maybe it’s been a whole classroom that has been difficult.
Either way, I know you know exactly what I am talking about. I have talked with teachers all over my area here in Michigan and have found that everyone has those students. Everyone is struggling and no one knows what to do.
Through a divinely guided path, I came across Conscious Discipline. So far, I have read 100 pages of Dr. Becky Bailey’s book. It may not seem like a lot but it has given me so much to think about and also confirmed so much of what I believe as an educator. However, there is only one point I want to share with you today and that is the concept of “Quit Taking it Personally.”
As educators, I believe, most are very critical on themselves. They have students in their classrooms that have behavior issues and they take it personally. Like it is their fault for the problems of the student (or students). However, that just isn’t always the case. Our students come to us with 5 to 17 years of other experiences. 5 to 17 years of other people guiding them in their life. Those past experiences have helped shape them into who they are when they walk into your room.
I’ve been that teacher. I have wanted to “fix” things for my students. I would try anything to help them be different. I would research for hours on end, fight their case to my administration and adjust anything I needed to in my classroom to help them. But unfortunately, it just was not enough. I took it all personally like I couldn’t do my job because I was not seeing any changes.
What I know now, which I chose to ignore before, is my job is to provide the best education for them in any way I can. The rest - it’s up to them. Will I still fight for them? Yes. Will I still adjust everything I can? Yes. That is my job. My job is too create an environment where they can learn and grow. If they do not grow today, I hope that they will one day. Because in reality, have you ever met someone who changed over night? Sometimes it takes people years to change, not just a few months.
So recently, my focus has been to not take it personally. It’s not about me. I’m doing everything in my power to help them.
To remind myself of to not take it personally, I created a poster. I tried to find Dr. Becky Bailey’s but was unsuccessful. So I made my own. All credit goes to her in the wording, all I did was typed it, printed it and hung it in my room.
My hope is that you find the statement to be as powerful as I did. Hang it in your classroom as a reminder that it’s not about you. Quit taking it personally. Your job is to model to them the kind of person they can be and make a difference in lives – in any way that you can.
Have you ever had a student that pushes your buttons? That ignores your requests to be a listener? To be quiet when someone is talking?
That can be extremely frustrating as a teacher. In your mind, you might be thinking that they are being defiant. Or that they are a bad.
But what if it was not that at all?
The thought occurred to me one afternoon at dismissal. It is usually loud and busy at that time of day anyways. But one particular afternoon I heard crayons being pushed around in the bin. Instantly, I begin looking for the source of the sound only to meet the eyes of a blonde haired little boy smiling. As I looked into those eyes, I realized he was looking for me to look at him. To say his name - to notice him.
The next day, he and I sat down and I told him that I wanted to hear what he had to say. I wanted to get to know him. His voice did matter in our classroom – to me. During that time, I also talked about ways he could get my attention in a positive way.
After that conversation, things shifted.
When you have a student who is pushing buttons – do you look beyond the behavior and ask why? I had read many books on it, but I always felt confined to making my students behave that I could never get to the root of the behaviors.
Digging deeper, finding out the why of the behavior answers the missing questions as to what we can do to help a student. If we are only addressing the behavior at the surface, we will never find out what that student needs.
Next time a student is disruptive or has behavioral challenges, look beyond the behavior and find out what the student needs.
When I got my first teaching job, I was so excited. I was just a reading interventionist for kindergarten, but to me it was just as good as a teaching job. Why? Because I would be there to help students learn. That was why I went to school for 5 years to be a teacher. But after my first day of touring the school and meeting the principal, my attitude changed.
That first day I was sharing my excitement for finding new ideas for the kids and the response I got back was, “We already have ideas. There is no need to reinvent the wheel.”