Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Value of Experience

Advice from a Teacher in the Trenches

    In the last twenty-three years of my teaching career I’ve witnessed the cycling of ideas and philosophies. I’ve seen teaching methods tweaked and renamed as the latest and greatest. Old thrown out ideas wheel their way back around with a different name. Do I dare say that the majority of the latest buzz words in education are just that....new names for methods or ideas that experienced teachers have used for years? Yes, I said it.

   This brings up the topic that disturbs me…the devaluing of experience in the classroom. Education today is being driven by people who have spent little or no time at all in the classroom. The philosophies under which decisions are made are based on studies or politically motivated. Don’t get me wrong, studies in the field of education are important when used in the correct context. That’s all I will say about that.

    Over my teaching career I’ve gotten my master’s degree in education, attended many professional trainings, taken extra courses, and so on. All of which I’ve learned things to add to my toolbox. None of which were the “fix all” in any area of education. The most valuable element in shaping me into the teacher I am today is my experience. As were the veteran teachers that mentored me at the start of my career. Nothing can replace the knowledge gained by teachers in the trenches.

The definition of the phrase in the trenches is “working in the most active and difficult parts of a job or business”. Did you catch that? Teachers in the thick of it all, not floating above dictating how to do the job.

    The discounting of this experience should not be taken lightly. It’s with this idea in mind that I’m motivated to write this book. Not because I’m a know it all. A teacher knows that he will never stop learning and I’m no different. I want to share my experience in order to arm other teachers with knowledge that I’ve gained in the last twenty years. My hope is that my ideas will ease the burden of having to dive into the latest trend in education head first. My advice to every teacher is to stand back and look at the new concept with your classroom in mind.

   Ask yourself these questions:

   What from this method or idea am I currently doing in my classroom?

   What can I take from this that will add to my toolbox? (not overflow it so that I feel overwhelmed)

   How does this fit into my teaching style?

   These are the questions I have learned to ask myself when new methods are thrown at me. In book one of my Teachers in the Trenches series I will share with you my experience with Differentiated Learning. I approached this topic with the three questions above when asked to take workshops on the subject. My goal in this book is to share with you the ideas of differentiation that I naturally built into my classroom and tips and tricks I picked up along the way. Differentiation doesn’t have to be a time consuming separate part of the curriculum. Join me in the next eight chapters to learn how you can do this simply and discover ways that you already differentiate that you probably didn’t even realize.

  I invite you to subscribed to my Email list to receive a free copy of the book when it's released.


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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Use Your Words

The Teacher Ninja Part 4

Control with Words and Actions

    A ninja knows how to use words and non-violent actions to gain the trust of people and build their confidence. The ninja then is in a position to control the individual.

   The teacher ninja uses words and actions not to control students, but to build relationships with them. Once the teacher ninja has established a rapport with a student, the student trusts the teacher. The teacher ninja must show the student with words and actions that she genuinely cares for the student.

    Students need to feel loved and have a sense of self-worth. A student that I will call Kaleb transferred in from another school district one year and was being placed in my room. A meeting was held ahead of time with administration concerning the student’s behavior. Kaleb arrived with a reputation and a chip on his shoulder. It took much effort and time on my part to chisel away at the tough exterior of Kaleb. I caught glimpses of what was underneath-a smart boy that needed an adult to believe in him. He was a natural at math, but was never told. His behavior blinded others of his potential. I used my words daily to build his self-worth. I frequently told him that he was smart and gave specific reasons why I thought that. When he did get into trouble, I told him that he was better than that. I trusted him with errands and small jobs in the classroom such as the greeter on Grandparent’s Day, running notes to teachers on my team, or peer tutoring other students in math. '

    This boy who fought almost daily on the playground at his previous school was seen in the office one time for fighting at our school…the first week he enrolled. He ended the school year with all A’s and B’s. He wrote a message to me the last day of school telling me that I was the best teacher he ever had and that he’d miss me. He hugged me on the last day of school and broke down in tears. My face was wet from my own tears. He left a imprint on my heart, and I hope I left one on his because I never want him to forget the potential he has to do great things.


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