Category Archives: Teacher Talk

Interesting Subjects…Interested Students

eager students

Hello again! So the last time we left off, I was kind of on a soap box about hiring new teachers. This is still a touchy subject with me, since I have yet to be hired and I really, really, really want to teach. I have all these ideas I would love to do in my future classroom.  Which brings me to the subject of this post: Interesting Subjects…Interested Students. (emphasis on InterestED)

In today’s world, with all it’s technology and fast paced everything, it is really hard for schools and teachers to compete for the attention and interest of their students. However, with a few tips that I have collected over the years I spent working in preschool/childcare, I hope to at least equip you with the knowledge of how to win back your students interest. Here goes!

First of all, technology is not your enemy. Even though there are times when I have wanted to throw my computer on the ground and stomp on it, I choose not to because my husband would probably croak. He just built me a new computer and needless to say I think he felt like stomping on it a few times during the process. Anyway, that’s beside point. Ever heard the phrase “Technology is great…when it works?” Well there is definitely truth to that. Kids today are raised on iphones and ipads and xboxes from the time they open their eyes to when they are packing up to move out of the house. Technology is constantly changing. Therefore the way the minds of our students work are constantly changing.

If you are one of those teachers that has the mindset of the way you’ve done it for years has always worked so why change, then please hear me out. I am not berating you for your teaching methods. I’m just asking you to keep an open mind when it comes to accepting technology as a resource in the classroom, not just for you, but for your students.

I have a younger cousin that I know would love to have a teacher that brought technology into the classroom as a learning tool rather than just a testing tool. I interned at his elementary school and I got to see first hand how technology can either grab a students attention or make him hate coming to school or even the thought of computers. The only time the students were allowed to use the computers were for tests. Long, multiple-choice tests. Who in their right mind would want to take tests only on the computer? What I’m trying to say is why not use computers for teaching in the classroom.

Smartboards/ Promethean boards are really big right now. Most schools have at least one in the building. Personally, I love the things. I found so many cool things to do with them that allows the students to be involved, not just the teacher. Let the students use technology. It’s not just for you. As long as you establish rules, go over them often, and stick to the consequences your students will treat the technology the way you want them to. You demonstrate proper care and they will mimic you. Allow the students to explore the new technology first in small groups or one at a time. Once you feel confident the students are able to handle themselves properly, then you can use the board as a center. There are several websites where teachers have created activities for smartboard or promethean boards. These are often great reinforcers for subjects and skills you have already taught. For younger grades, this is also great for writing sightwords. Students always want to write on the board. Why not give them something useful to write?

ipads are another big thing in the classroom today. With all the apps you can access, how is it that teachers are not making the ipad a center? I have taught many students that would have been so much better behavior-wise if they had been given the chance to use the ipad during the day. They saw the teacher use it and they probably already have one at home. The interest of that student was not on what they were learning. It was only on the next time they will get to use the ipad. Some kids are just geared for technology. They love it and want to use it everyday. Teachers, we need to hone in on these interests and incorporate them into our learning day. So my second tip is to make the ipad or smartboard/promethean a center. There are several great learning apps that can be incorporated into lessons or for reinforcement of a previous skill. For younger grades, there are sightword apps, letter and number recognition apps, patterns and beginning math apps, the list just goes on. And the best part is, most of them are free! I have dealt more with lower than upper grades, but I am sure there are several apps that can help students with the skills they are learning or have already learned, but need that extra help.

My third and final tip for you is to collaborate with your fellow teachers. A teacher should never have to set out alone to do something. If the idea of having to allow your students to use the ipad is a frightening one to you go to the teacher that embraces technology in the classroom and ask them how they do it. Get some pointers on what to do first. It is never a good idea to throw several new things on the students at once. Spread them out over the year. Start out with the ipad for a month or so and then put it away and switch to the smartboard. This allows the students to focus on one new item at a time and not be so overwhelmed and excited.

I do not believe that all activities in the classroom have to involve technology in order to grab your students attention. It is the job of a teacher to find out about the students interests and plan the lessons around those interests. That being said, I believe it is a matter of teaching methods and pure joy in your teaching job that allows your students to be interested in what you are saying. This can be as simple as having an attention grabber at the beginning of the lesson that involves a student’s favorite movie character. Kids want to learn, whether they act like it or not. Give them something they want to learn. Help them relate to the subject.

I hope you have learned something from my rantings and ravings. I truly believe that to be a teacher is a calling. Not just someone who can read from a book. I mean a true teacher. One that shows passion in how they teach and a true concern for the well-being of their students. So, I leave you with this: Go forth and teach!

Teaching Experience? What Do I Know?

teaching experience

I was thinking recently about how long it has been since I gradated. 3 years. For some of you that may sound like a short while, but for me it’s a lot longer than I expected to still not have a job teaching in my own classroom.

I am a certified elementary teacher. Basically, all that means is I have a degree to teach K-6 grades. Unfortunately, it has been a bit tougher than I thought. I have always known I wanted to be a teacher. I guess you could say it was a calling. Sounds cheesy, I know, but it’s the truth. I cannot wait to get my own classroom and my own class of students waiting for me to give them what they want and need: knowledge. Sometimes I feel that I am the only one that has a passion for being in the classroom. And yet, it seems so far out of my reach at times I feel I’ve chosen the wrong path. But, nevertheless, I keep going. I keep setting up interviews only to be told the position has already been filled by someone with more experience.

More experience? Okay. I can see how a teacher with more experience can be the better choice, but here is my dilemma. How can a new teacher ever gain experience if all the principals/employers are looking for teachers who already have years of experience in a classroom? I can substitute all I want and it will not count towards experience. I can be an educators assistant all I want and it will not count as teaching…even though I taught several lessons during that year because I had a teacher who understood the unfairness in the hiring process of new teachers. That is beside the point, but she was a wonderful teacher and she split her job of teaching with me because she felt I knew what I was doing and had faith in me that I could do a good job.

Perhaps more principals should give that a try. I’m not saying they should hire every new teacher with no experience they come across, but it would give people like me a little hope that I will one day teach in the classroom. I have experience. It may not be in having my own classroom, but I have worked hard to get to that point…only to be told that it is just out of my grasp because I don’t have the “right” experience. It is discouraging.

I am not writing this to put anyone down or to take a jab at principals. No, I’m writing this with the hopes that those of you who read this might realize the potential of a new teacher with little experience you interview. We are not terrible at what we do. For goodness sake, we spent four years in college, paying who knows what, in order to earn a degree to teach.

I don’t want to do this for the time off or pay. Anyone who is a good teacher will know those are not the perks of this job. I want to do this so I can make a difference in the kids of tomorrow. They are the ones that will be in charge when we get old. I want to know that I was able to show them a good role model and that I was able to give them the knowledge they need to succeed in life. I care about the kids I have worked with. They are more than just an empty space that needs to filled with a set curriculum. They are children. Waiting to be given a chance to soak up everything they can about something that interests them.

So, why not make every subject something they are interested in? I have a few ideas on how to do this. Stay tuned to find out.

*Media Image from blog Strange New Teacher: The Teacher’s Job Interview Oct. 2008.