Category Archives: Teaching

About lessons and curriculums

New Twists On Old Excuses

It never ceases to amaze me at how my students still use the same, tired excuses for not turning in work. Back in the day, saying, “It got wet,” or “My brother ate it ,” were standard. But now, my kids have a whole new angle on avoiding turning in work.

When I asked one particular class why they hadn’t turned in an assigned poster  project, too many of them told me some high-tech one-liners: “I don’t have a printer,” “I can’t write this much information,” “We went on vacation, and I didn’t have time to finish,” “The laptop crashed,”  “No way to get to a public library [to use the free computers],” and “My subject wasn’t on the Internet.”

Things haven’t changed…….


Too Much Knowledge?


Teaching Spanish to the little ones can sometimes be a blend of funny and frustration.

One of my second-grade girls, was having a bit of trouble with remembering words for the basic colors.  Now, having been at the school a couple of years  before teaching Spanish, I had her in kindergarten, and of course, we learned the words then. When I reminded her about this, she gave me an exasperated look, and said:  “Ms. ______, I already have way too much stuff to remember from this year! How can you expect my brain to keep all of that stuff back from a long time ago?

I explained that knowledge is like a a layer cake—you build upon each segment of learning, but she wasn’t having have any part of that. she just kept saying, “My head can only hold on so much stuff…”   Go figure!

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.”

¿Que haces? – What’s happening?

The new school year has brought about some major changes in my daily work schedule—the biggest one being that for now, I’m back at my longtime, regular school—in the position as the Spanish teacher for the school.

Fortunately, I am bi-lingual, and have had experience with teaching in an ESL setting, so I’ve seen both Spanish and English  from both sides.  It does means a lot more work, and having to be more creative in presenting Spanish as a second language to urban school children.

However, it’s been more of a pleasure than a pain.

For one thing, these kids only get exposure to the language once a week, for roughly 35 minutes. That’s hardly enough time to learn a few phrases, so the key is repetition, repetition, and more repetition.  They want to learn, but are not patient with themselves to give the process time, and memorization is another topic altogether.

However, there is a bit of progress being made, albeit small, and I just hope this weekly meeting will encourage many of them to take Spanish more extensively  in high school