Saturday, April 10, 2010

Teachers, Students and Social Networking

Remember Mister Rogers' song, " Please won't you be my neighbor?"

Add a 21st century twist to the lyrics and it could ring, "Please won't you be my social networking friend?"

A clearly simple click of the mouse connects you and a potential MySpace, Twitter or Facebook "friend". What if that friend is a student from one of the classes you teach?

I personally believe students and teachers should keep a respectful distance outside of the classroom. It's scary to think how commonplace it is for elementary school children to have social networking accounts with free reign and little supervision. They innocently are adding all the friends they can and often compare notes at school. "I have xxx friends, how many do YOU have?" Competitively cruel!

The next time a student asks you to be his or her social networking "friend", think twice before clicking "accept". Maintain a  conservative policy that the only children under 18 you social network with are your children, relatives or close family friend.

Some may say mine is a paranoid attitude, but I call it professionalism.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Substitute Teaching: We are Experts at Improv!

My fellow substitute teachers: don't quit your day job, but we most likely could moonlight on "Saturday Night Live"!

Substitute teaching is alot like doing improvisational comedy. In fact, at times it is a comedy of errors. We are thrown material and must make it work. The key is to take the lead from a good comic, if a joke (in our case: lesson) bombs, shake it off and move on. Our audience may grasp it the next time.
Realize that we are given a script in the form of a lesson plan. Some scripts are better than others, but it's all have to go on. Many lesson plans you encounter will be sketchy at best. What makes you a good substitute is improvise with the tools at hand and contents from your "Mary Poppins" bag of back up classroom activities. (see previous posts for ideas).
Substitute teaching beckons me back to my days of competing in high school and collegiate speech tournaments. My favorite categories to compete were Impromptu and Extemporaneous - subbing is similarly thinking on the fly. Substitute teachers try to keep one step ahead of our students. Don't show the kids you messed up, move on like any professional comic or performer. So, go dust your self off and get back on that horse!
Note to students: give your sub a break and don't throw tomatoes if you don't get our joke (lesson)! :)

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Classroom Behavior Incentive Suggestion

My blog followers know that I'm a big believer in behavior incentive "tricks". These are a substitute teacher's best friends. I'm known among the students I teach for bringing Smarties or stickers. However, if you forget your ""Mary Poppins Bag"" full of magical substitute teaching tricks (see previous blog posts) - don't worry! All you need is the classroom's white board and a marker.
The class may already be divided into numbered or named groups. If not, you'll have to make your own. Just divide the class into 4 to 6 groups depending on the size of the class.

After roll call, I label the board with the title: GROUPS, and then 1,2,3,4,5 or the group names below. I inform students there is group competition all day. The leading group earns special privileges such as being excused first for recess, lunch, etc. or being first in a game or read -alouds.

Try this next time you substitute teach. It's free, easy and produces the results you're aiming for in behavior. Combining this  reward system  with stickers or candy is an added incentive for students.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

How Well Do You Know the Pledge of Allegiance?

3'X5' Polycotton US Flag with 6' steel pole & steel bracket Kit
I certainly do not mean to challenge one's intelligence, but let's face it, we've been out of elementary school for quite a while. This is a gentle reminder so you are not caught in an embarrassing moment like a colleague of mine. As young students we had daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and we knew these precious words intimately. As adults (unless you are a elementary school teacher) we salute the flag sporadically throughout the year at meetings and special events. We are all humans, and humans forget.
And let me tell you, children never forget the substitute who botched the Pledge of Allegiance.

Thankfully it wasn't me! After reading this blog post, it won't be you.

After leading the Flag Salute during a recent substitute teaching job in a 2nd Grade class, I was told by one of the students that their last substitute teacher "messed up the pledge big time!" The class enthusiastically offered up laughter and her name. Ouch! I know the woman mentioned and I sure feel sorry for her. As teacher's, our voice needs to be strong and respectful during the pledge to set a good example.
Review the pledge before your next elementary school substitute teaching job, so your name isn't laughed about unmercifully.
I'm so proud to be an American and it is a joy to recount this oath of loyalty any chance I get:

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Lunch Room Etiquette

I attended an informative seminar on substitute teaching before I embarked on this career some 13 years ago. The sage advice from the seminar leader - a veteran teacher - had nothing to do with the classroom. It was about lunch room etiquette - and I'm not talking about a cafeteria full of students.

My dear readers, watch your demeanor in the teacher's break room. Remember that we are a guest and to act as such. This is the regular staff's retreat for the 45 minutes or so of a lunch period. There are several conversations going on at once and our role should be a polite listener. I'm not saying to be unresponsive. To the contrary, it is a balance of being approachable but hanging back a bit until you feel the vibe it is ok to jump in. Let instinct be your guide.

I've witnessed first hand when a new substitute teacher comes in and monopolizes the conversations. I know it annoyed me, so I imagine it sounded like fingernails on a chalkboard to the regular staff. It isn't pretty for that sub down the road! This behavior is looked on as irritating. Keep in mind that a teacher can tell the district office "please note that I don't want 'substitute Smith' to come to my class." Lunch room antics could be a career buster.

"A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while he gets to know something." - Wilson Mizner
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