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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Need Advice: Trying to Help Struggling New Teacher

I think this is heavy on my mind, I've spoken to everyone about it and still feel unsettled.  I have a new teacher on my team this year and she's struggling.  My teammate, who has MANY years under her belt, and I, who have 9 years under mine, are trying to help her and we've come to a wall.  I am going to try to list everything I've told her in terms of advice and tips and if you can think of anything more, please add on.  And I am sure I will forget to tell you everything I've told her.  I just really want to help her grow and learn, and get through her toughest year.

1.  Understand the objective: Determine what the indicator is really asking the students to know and focus on that skill.
2.  Work backwards: if you know what the end objective is, determine the steps you need to take to get there.
3. Understand your kids: what kind of learners are they? How fast or slow do you need to go? What skills/concepts do you think you will need to repeat? Who needs the most support? Who needs a challenge? etc...  Knowing this will help you plan your lessons.
4.  If a lesson doesn't go right, do it again, differently: if you kiddos don't understand a concept, don't just go on to the next lesson in the curriculum, do it again, differently.  Try a different approach, maybe more direct instruction, more guided practice, group work, small group, a discovery learning approach, something, but don't just move on because your curriculum and the district/county says you need so many indicators covered.  Work toward mastery and understand these skills build on each other.  Now I am not saying spend weeks on a single concept, interweave it into other lessons, reteaching time, homework, early finishers, etc.
5.  Be a Thoughtful Planner:  it is your first year, PLAN for everything to there is no way you have forgotten a minute.  Write down the questions you will ask, make sure you are using equitable strategies, make sure you are checking for understanding, and all of this is written down.  Don't just write in the plan book your objectives and call it a day, a veteran teacher can do this because all this has hopefully become second nature, but even veteran teachers still write/script out their plans.  I know I do sometimes especially when the lessons are particularly demanding and I want to make sure I teach the skill/concept well.
6.  Think outside the box: the new common core standards allow for wonderful integration even if the district's curriculum doesn't and puts you in that box.  You can do many projects/activities/assignments that span over subjects and they students really see how everything is connected and reading strategies are isolated to just the subject of reading, you can use it in socials studies, science, math, writing, and life.
7.  YOU are the teacher: Ultimately, you are the one making decisions about your classroom.  You are getting advice from teammates, staff developers, administration, consulting teachers, etc, but it is up to you to make the decisions and your responsibility.  I am not saying ignore the advice, especially administration, they are your bosses, but use what you can, think about the rest, try it, you never know, it might work.
8.  Be reflective and own your mistakes: You need to reflect on what went well and what needs improvement in your lessons and classroom.  If you made a mistake, own that mistake, and reflect about how you will do things differently next time.  New teachers don't know everything; even veteran teachers don't know everything.  Teaching is a learning profession, and not just for the students.
9.  If you don't know something, ask: I know that is easier said than done, and you probably don't know what you don't know, but once you figure out that you don't know, ask.  Your teammates and the rest of the staff are more than willing to help.
10.  Relax: this is a hard job, take some time for yourself.
11. Don't grade everything: don't check everything.
12.  I know there is more, and I've said more, but I am spent, add on please!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Recycling Envelops

My friend and colleague showed me how envelops can be recycled.  My students were researching animals on Pebblego.com and just recording their findings on a sheet of paper (worksheet).  On the way up to class, one of my students suggested that we turn it into a writing activity and I said YES!!


I used my old report card envelops from last year and had them turn them inside out and into books.  They used text features and recorded their information on the "pages."  I was able to get science grades, writing grades, and reading grades from this one assignment and they had so much fun doing it!









Wife, Mother, then Teacher: Finding the Balance

As a teacher in a very high ranked county in Maryland and in the country, there is a lot of pressure to be on top, to provide rigorous instruction, meet with small groups daily, meet the needs of EVERY student EVERY day, and back up every decision with data.  I love my job, I try to do the best I can every day for each of my students, and often times, our family, or if we don't have a family, our personal lives go by the wayside.  I somehow have figured out a way that I don't bring anything home so I can be with my family and really enjoy my time with them.  By the way, to give you an idea, I have a 6 month old, a kindergartener, I've been teaching for 9 years, and this is my second year with this new curriculum.


Here's how I do my job, do it well, and not go insane:


1.  Assign a day to do a chore from school.


Mondays: We always have some sort of meeting after school.
Tuesdays: Grade papers
Wednesdays: Grade papers
Thursdays: Plan the next week
Friday: Collect and copy the materials I need for the next week


2.  Use parent volunteers! 


I am a fourth grade teacher and have every parent's email in a grouped email.  I just send out an email asking for help and they came running.  Well, only 2 parents came running, but I use one on Tuesday and the other on Thursday.  I have easy assignments for them and they get it done for me.


3.  Keep a file/binder for everything.


I keep an original of whatever I use and file it.  I used to file them based on topic (inferencing, summarizing, fractions etc) but with this new curriculum I file based on which quarter I use it in and by subject.  So next year, all I have to do is pull out what I did last year rather than search all my folders again for something that fits the curriculum. 


4.  Binders.


I have to keep anecdotal data and Fountas and Pinnell data on my students.  I have a binder for reading and math.  I have my indicators for the quarter listed and then record the data and the number that represents the indicator and take notes.



5. Cut down on my socializing! 


Talking to our friends at school is easy to do and eats up a lot of time.  I let myself have 10 minutes and then it is back to work.  That way I don't have to take anything home. 


6. My "To Copy" folder is in my mailbox near the copier. 


I am all the way at the other end of the school the furthest from the copier.  So I have a "to copy" folder in my room next to my area where I plan and then when I go to the copier I take all that stuff out and put it in the "to copy" folder in my mailbox.  It cuts down on forgetting things and having to go all the way back to get them, and if there is a line, I just put the stuff back in my box for later.  That way I am not wasting time. 


7.  I never bring anything from my mailbox that I don't need in my room. 


If it is flyers for retirement discussions, meeting my union rep, etc I just recycle it after getting the information.


8.  I have a place for all my copies for the next two weeks.


Then I take out the copies for the day out and put them in color coded folders that don't take up a lot of space.  I used to pile them on top of each other in the order that I would use them, but it got messy, or I didn't use all that I copied, and it would spread out and be really messy.  Now, everything has a place and there is no spreading or messiness. 



9.  Reusable and wipe-able (sp?) lesson plan book.


I started doing this last year and downloaded a lesson plan book from Clutter-free Classroom and put them in sheet protectors and use transparency markers.  But it has to be these specific transparency markers because the others wipe off easily, and these need a wipe to get it off.


10.  Stay neat.


I have a place for everything, and everything has a place.  If it doesn't have a place, I make a place.  I've walked into other teacher's rooms and their desks are covered in papers, or there are stacks every where.  They swear they know where everything is but it looks so disorganized and messy.  If I were a parent in their room, it would make me think...  Sorry if you are like that, but it does send a message, and not a positive one.
At the end of each day, I have my students clean up before they are dismissed, and do all the little jobs that are daily and annoying.  They I do my assigned work for the day, then neaten up my space.  I tell my kids that a organized desk allows you to think clearly, may not be exactly true, but it allows them to get to their work quicker to give them more time to think.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

January FLU in!

I haven't written anything in a very long time.  Once school started and life happened, all my plans to maintain this cool new world I found and build up a following went to the back burner. Not that I don't enjoy blogging or reading blogs, but there are choices to be made.

The BIG news is that I am 20 weeks pregnant.  So for first quarter of the school year, as soon as I got home, I was pretty much in bed asleep.

I am still in bed but for a reason that is much more annoying, I have the flu, and I've been in bed since Saturday, so this is my FIFTH day in bed.  I had all these plans to grade all my papers, and plan but let me just tell you.  Just getting myself something to eat is tiring.  I can barely breath, cough through the night, get hot, then cold, then restless, then then then. 

The good thing is that I still feel little one kickin' around up in there so he seems to be fine though I have to take medication. :(

So here is my currently...

1.  Listening to my hubby put new cabinet faces on our kitchen cabinets and getting annoyed with himself that he got the wrong screws or what have you.

2.  Loving the new body pillow he got me so I'm not uncomfortable at night.  With the belly getting bigger and what not, some extra support is great.

3.  Thinking about all the work I have to do for school and wondering when this dang on flu is going to be on its way.

4.  Wanting to be able to breath through my nose, magically have all my papers graded, and energy to hang out with the hubby.

5. Needing more sick leave than I have for the upcoming maternity leave.  County requires me to use a certain amount, and this darn flu is cutting into those days.

6.  Memory/Tradition:  My husband is Korean, and I learned today that they have a new year's tradition.  The children, even adult children, bow deeply to their elders wishing them a happy new year and the elders give them money (not much), then they all have a big lunch/meal together.  I missed my first one today because I was in bed, but look forward to it next year.

And as far as new year's resolutions, mine as a mom is to be in moment for my kids, not distracted by whatever else is going on in my life, to give them my attention.  As a wife, to be there for my hubby, to love and care for him, and to support him however I can.  As a teacher, to let this common core stuff go, and not be so much on the detail of the curriculum but remember learning is fun.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tried It Tuesday! (Learnzillion.com)

A colleague of mine has turned me on to this new website: www.learnzillion.com!  It is completely free and you can sign up your whole class if you wanted.  There are lessons with practice that you can assign to the kids to complete at home.  It is a video tutorial on the indicators we teach.  It is directly aligned to the COMMON CORE starting from 2nd and up! 

You can assign each student a different assignment based on their needs.  You can give them more review on concepts or enrichment lessons that we will be coming to soon. I have had many great reviews not only from the kids but from the parents as well.  The parents love that they can see how the lessons are being taught as well.

Did I tell you they have lessons in READING and MATH!!  Check it out, and let me know what you think

Friday, September 20, 2013

Parents: Can't live with them, can't live without them!



Last night was our BTSN and overall it was good, and in some ways annoying.  I came up to fourth from third so I know some of these parents pretty well already, which means I have a better understanding of their thinking.  Dealing with parents was not my forte.  I was blunt, to the point, didn't sugar coat, and probably told the parents too much what they didn't want to hear.  I have learned over the years how to make it a mutually beneficial relationship, sometimes I am successful, others I am not, but always a learning experience.  So far this year, we are all smiles and they are in love with me. I haven't completely changed how I communicate but I've tweaked it and added some proactive approaches to deterring meltdowns.  Here are some ways I build a good relationship and communicate with my parents. (my 5 for Friday)


1.  Take a cute notepad, put one student's name at the top from your entire class, over and over again.  Each day, pull the top paper and write a positive note home to that child and their parent.  I know we have some kids that it would be difficult to find a super positive for, but it can be anything.  Try to send one to every kid in your class within the first two weeks, and then keep doing it throughout the year.  The kids love taking positive notes home, and the parents appreciate that you've recognized their child.

2.  Make your expectations for your parents clear just like you would with the students.  if you've told your parents to give you three days notice before bringing in cupcakes, and they bring it in the day of or before, simply say (like I did yesterday), because you only gave me one day's notice and I've asked you to give me a week, she will have to take her cupcakes to the cafeteria to share with the students and won't be able to do it in class.  It can be hard to do, and you want to appease them, but just like kids, if they know you mean what you say the hassle will be less later.

3.  This tip has worked wonders for me.  A weekly email, not newsletter, a detailed, this is what your child will be learning and expected to know this week email.  I always start with reminders instead of for the end, then I go into each and every subject detailing what lessons they will be taught and what it will look like.  i provide examples, websites, and links for more information. I get so many emails saying that they love these emails because it helps them to know exactly what is going on and how to support them, that I am never turning back.

I know many of you have newsletters that your grade level, district, school sends out.  THEY DON"T READ THEM!!  But they do read those emails.  Keep them concise and not overwhelming.  Save them.

4.  Document, save, and file all emails from parents.  My outlook at work deletes the email after 3 weeks, and there have been too many times that parents call me to the carpet over not informing them, or they were not made aware, etc.  I don't pay them no mind, I just forward the email where I did inform them, highlight their email, and press send.  It may seem harsh, but it works.  Also, if a parent decides to go off on you, it's your documentation for your principal.  Hopefully, this has not happened to any of you, but it has with me, and it saved my behind.

5.  Be thoughtful when you communicate with your parents.  You NEED to be honest, they need to know what is really going on with their child, sandwich it.  Positive, negative, positive.  But don't sugar coat it, if you do that too much, they may not think the negative is that serious.  Even if it is all positive, give them some kind of feed back to help in some way.  

Those are my five thoughts.  If you have more to add, please do.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Crazy Kuzner now Crazy Chae Motivates

So, I am sitting in a dark kitchen, just finished up reading some blogs, thinking what else do I have to add to this world of teacher blogs.  I am not sure, I feel that most of you know what I tell you already.  But here it goes...


I motivate them by being me, aka crazy.  I am sarcastic, loud, and wave my arms and body around.  To give you an idea, one time I told the class if one more person asks me what they were supposed to do when they were done, I would fall down dead (I know, maybe not the most sensitive, but oh well, I said it).  Well, as you can guess, one more person asked me, and I don't think because they wanted to see me fall down dead.  Well, I flail, gasp for breath, clutch my heart, and fell dramatically to the ground motionless and with my tongue hanging out.

I know, kinda weird.

My point is, I encourage them to be them, the nerdy, weird, the quiet, the athlete, the diva, the princess, whatever, but also to pursue the interests they have.  So instead of trying to fill every moment of their day with things to do when they are done with whatever (early finishers, as I used to call them, and I am sure most of you), I encourage them to seek something out that they are interested in, something that sparks their interest.  Last year, two girls were super into dolphins.  When ever they completed their assignment from me, they were able to get on the computer to research dolphins.  No dead line, no guidance, no nothing.  Just a point in the direction they were going, a suggestion for where to find more information, or a quick lesson in Word.

You should have seen the final product (wish I had a picture) and it was amazing.  They created a hard cover out of cardboard, and covered in a watercolor painting of a dolphin.  They included a table of contents with chapters using bold print, photographs with labels, and a glossary at the end.  They also made a poster of the parts of the dolphin and a map of their migration path.  THIS WAS THIRD GRADE!  They got up in front of the class and presented their project.

Now, not all my kids were able to go to this degree, but researching and learning more about what they were interested in motivated them to get their work done in class.  BUT not just get it done; they had to get it done well using their best effort.  They know I don't take anything but their best.  And when it is done, they get to do what they want.  They enjoyed learning about what they like so much, many of them would want to come in during recess do complete their projects.  I mean, I had someone choose Lamborghini cars to Muhammed Ali to whatever.  It didn't matter.  All that mattered was that they were motivated and they were teaching themselves by doing it.

So, that's how I try to motivate my kids, being me, saying it's ok to be me, them to be them, like what I like, they can like what they like, and we can all learn from each other.  I know I've learned tons from them.