- Bringing Project Based Learning to our Classroom - August 12, 2018
- Keep the Engagement Alive: Start the Year with Purpose - August 5, 2018
- It's Our Fault: A Teacher's Confession - March 18, 2018
- Keeping Your Teaching Real: A Teacher's Role - March 11, 2018
- Sketch Notes in the Elementary Classroom - February 15, 2017
- Teach From the Heart - February 9, 2017
- Who is the Teacher: School or Family? - January 11, 2017
- Dear President Elect Trump, From Your Teachers - November 17, 2016
- Let them Be Children - October 21, 2016
- Print Resources: Great Tools for Kids - October 17, 2016
"Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain," stammered The Great and Powerful Oz upon his discovery in 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz. Oz ran the dream city as an ordinary man, yet was seen as all-powerful by his city. But when the curtain was pulled back the real conversations began.
Teachers today do more than ever before. Gone is the time of teaching a unit, testing your students then recording the grades and moving on. There seems to be an illusion, created mainly by those outside of education, about today's teachers. In my almost 20 years of education, my responsibilities have changed tremendously and it is time to start having real conversations about what a teacher does. In an eight-hour day, the list of to do is longer than the time provided to accomplish the tasks. Let's pull back the curtain and take a good look at the realities of teaching today.
My first responsibility is always my students. Any elementary classroom has a diverse group of students with different needs including content, social skills, speech, and language. Each student and family come to the classroom with background knowledge and experience that are not identical. My goal is to meet these learners where they are and take them down a path of learning. This is not a one size fits all lesson plan template. It involves getting to know my students as individuals.
This does not just magically happen. Glenda the Good Witch is not there to wave her wand and wish for good for all. Teachers set up a community and teach students how to persist, respect, fail, and learn. This is a small piece on top of the content curriculum. In the fourth grade English Language Arts curriculum there are over 150 items to teach. In the fourth-grade math curriculum, there are over 130 items to teach. Adding science and social studies we balance all of those standards will teaching social-emotional learning as well. Teachers must teach and model the behavior expectations they have in the classroom. I spend time stating and restating how to help others, how to get help when stuck, how to manage supplies, how to organize papers, how to understand when you have mastered a skill, what to do when you finish a task and more. Teachers teach their content skills and so much more.
The eight-hour workday flies by. My students have 35 minutes of gym or music daily and three of those days I get my "plan time". In this time I will reply to email, update my classroom blog, make copies, grade papers, look at formative assessments and regroup students, put grades in the electronic grade book, read information from the principal, read minutes from the other grade level teams, and attend to any student issues that have come up that day. There is also 15 minutes before and 15 minutes after school. Twice a week, for an hour and a half, I meet with my team to discuss student issues, review student work, create groups for differentiated math and reading, plan visitors and share technology ideas, discuss objectives and standards and lesson plan. There is never enough time. Work and grading and communications are always brought home. As the number of things demanded of educators increases each year and yet the plan and preparation time does not match.
The learning in classrooms is designed to match student needs in today's society. Technology is integrated and many lessons involve projects and group work. Again, gone is the day of, "Turn to page 78 and complete questions 1-20." Classrooms are busy communities of work. The teacher must prepare supplies and assist students as they collaborate. Many subjects and lessons are differentiated so I may be finding three articles on the same topic to match the reading levels of my learners. I am looking for resources to push students into division when they have mastered multiplication while finding hands-on lessons to support those who need to relearn repeated addition. And to do this successfully I must listen to each child read, respond meaningfully to their writing, and give quick formative assessments throughout the week to know where our learning goal is and what success of that goal looks like. I am interacting with students and teaching from the moment they walk into my room through the moment they walk out. Again, gone is the day of students sitting in rows while the teacher lectures. Classrooms today are active learning hubs with teachers guiding learning from all points and helping each learning become successful.
We need real conversations happening in education today. Those talking about education and making decisions about education are not our teachers. The experts are simply doing what they are being told to do. We use our knowledge to best implement policies and laws that we know could be better. Our nation is filled with teachers who have a heart for children. They work daily to help our youth. Sometimes with no supplies, in impossible situations, to provide a safe learning space to their kids but teachers show up and smile and teach. They bring items from home and spend their own money to provide what their students need to learn. Teachers give their own time to implement new standards, complete grading and attend meetings. The real conversation needs to start with these people with the heart for teaching.
At the end of "The Wizard of Oz" Glinda helps Dorothy discover how own power.
Dorothy, "Oh, will you help me? Can you help me?"
Glinda, "You don't need to be helped any longer. You've always had the power to go back to Kansas."
Dorothy, "I have?"
Scarecrow, "Then why didn't you tell her before?"
Glinda, "She wouldn't have believed me. She had to learn it for herself."
Scarecrow, "What have you learned, Dorothy?" Listen to your inner teacher. Listen to your voice. You have the power. As educators, we need to pull back the curtain and share our stories. Stories of our students, our success and what is real in classrooms today.
Cc.4.oa.1, Standard -. "Fourth Grade ELA Standards and "I Can Statements"Fourth Grade ELA Standards and "I Can Statements"(n.d.): n. pag. Elizabethtown Independent Schools. Web. 30 Aug. 2015.
Cc.4.oa.1, Standard -. "Fourth Grade Math Standards and "I Can Statements"" Fourth Grade Math Standards and "I Can Statements"(n.d.): n. pag. Elizabethtown Independent Schools. Web. 30 Aug. 2015.