Monthly Archives: October 2010

No Plans + No Preps = Not Good

    One request that any regularly working guest teacher will ask all teachers that they sub for: please, please, please have plans for your classes or departmental subjects. It’s not that we’re not educators who can’t jump in and take up the reins, but with your plans in place, it makes the day easier for students and adults alike.

   I knew it was going to be a bad day when, upon entering the classroom, not finding any plans or guidelines for the day or even a series of days. I know that emergencies do occur, but having been in a classroom situation, I had to leave  a week of Emergency Plans with my assistant principal  just in that event.

     About one out of every five assignments that I had last year, was a classroom without any plans to follow. That meant asking the kids—who didn’t always know, trying to find out from a teacher colleague, and finally, pulling out of the famed “bag of tricks” to keep the kids occupied, and only swing from the ceiling 20% of the day. To make matters worse, if there were no preps like gym, library, etc. scheduled for the day, it was like cabin fever with 28 or more unwilling residents.

      One of the most interesting days I had w/o plans was with a kindergarten of 29 students in October, right before Halloween. Right after lunch, they collectively got cranky, and tired, so the afternoon was very challenging, as the scheduled prep, gym, was cancelled. That went over like a leaden balloon, so frustration paired with boredom created an “angry mob” of 6-year olds who, not only missed their regular teacher, but had their routine upset. Not a good day at all.

     When the kids sense that you don’t know what’s going on—they make sure to pick that up and run with it—doing everything in their power to try [the operative word here is try] to stress you out.  At least by knowing where the bathrooms are, when the bathroom breaks and lunch times are scheduled, and a barebones outline of what’s happening would make things a little easier.

    Again, on behalf of all the guests teachers out there—leave us something to go on, so upon your return, there won’t be such a struggle to return to “normal.”

Driven by Perfection

  It’s too bad that many of the children I teach have let their imaginations lay dormant when we start on  a new lesson.

  One of the things I do is try to steer away from so much white paper, and use colored paper,  using creative folds, tape, etc. to create something different while learning the lesson’s objectives. As a kid myself, it was a joy to “do something different” like write my spelling words on green paper, or make a booklet with that day’s social studies facts.

   However, I’ve noticed a trend at my schools where the kids are afraid to venture beyond that sea of black ink on white.  I wanted them to make a foldable chart of eight sections, and we were going to put a Spanish word in each box, and illustrate the meaning that word.

    But too many of them got stymied after making the first horizontal fold, and became confused by further folding, even though I was modeling it with them.I had to as, “Do you ever do this in other classes, or at home?”

   “Oh no,” many of then chimed out.  “we’re not allowed to do stuff like that—that’s not ‘real’ school.”

    I was thoroughly surprised at that—as a simple act of creating something with a colored sheet of paper was considered frivolous. So, by the time many them had gotten the folds correctly, they became frustrated that the folds didn’t crease exactly (!) or that their drawings were a millimeter off center. I had to quell constant cries of “I messed up,” by assuring them that even those        would-be mistakes and smudged lines were part of the learning process. But too many of them responded with—“I can’t make a mistake; it has to be RIGHT .”

      The absence or low presence of including creativity and the arts as part of the school day is sad, as it takes more than competency in literacy and math to be a well-rounded person.