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.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Ideas for us BUSY TEACHERS!!

So, apparently, I start every sentence with So.  I actually have to delete it and start over.  Not this time.

I've been reading all these posts of Currently in September and I've notice many of you have a common theme, you need more ME time.  I am going to give you some suggestions that I use to help me have my ME and FAMILY time.

1.  Meal planning: There are several services for low fees that will create a meal plan for you for the week.  They'll include the grocery list, the daily meal, and the recipe.  I've used eMeals but now I use Simple Clean Meals.  I like it better because each meal is on a sheet instead of all the recipes squeezed in on one sheet like eMeals.  It is also "clean" meaning the recipes use unprocessed food.  There a couple canned ingredients like tomatoes or beans but it is no big deal.  I don't use all the recipes, but I'll pick the ones I like.

2.  To Do Lists: about 15 minutes before I leave for the day I make a list of what I need to do the next day.  I prioritize what has to be done that day, that week, and what can be pushed back to the back burner.  I designate a small notebook for all my to do lists.  I don't like post-its because they lose their stickiness and they are all over the place.  So, I take that list, make a pile of what I have to do (copy, file, make) and leave my list on top or put it in my box (which is right next to the copier).

3.  Designated Space for everything!  Organization is what keeps me sane.  If I am not organized my ME and FAMILY time go out the window.  If there comes to be an item that doesn't have a place, I find a place for it.

4.  Take an hour for yourself, hopefully more.  Book a pedicure, go shopping, nap, watch TV, go see a movie by yourself. But it is important!

5.  I know this is hard for people, but don't mingle too much with your colleagues.  I will only speak with my colleagues for about 10 minutes after the kids leave because work is to be done.  I am friends with many but I will socialize after I am done.  Many will stay a long time talking in the halls and classrooms and stay into the late afternoon.  Not I.  I will set up HH or dinner with them but then that turns into my ME and FAMILY and now FRIENDS time.

6.  GO HOME!  Enjoy your family and friends, and your time!  I know it is easy to stay late or take it home because you justify that you can get it done when you have a moment.  Especially those that don't have children yet, it is easy to just always work.  I have a colleague that would stay til 8 or later every day.  It was a chore to get her out the door.  This year, she is determined to have a balanced life.

Your balanced life is important.  We all love teaching and we wouldn't do it if we didn't love it.  You need to love yourself first, and then you'll be your best for your students!

Here is my currently...

 I love my daughter too, but that is a given!  I also can't wait til next week, but I can't tell you why right now!!  I will tell you when I can...