education, Teacher

Ten Important Lessons I Teach That Aren’t Part of the Core Curriculum

writing100Some folks are predicting that live teachers in classrooms will soon be replaced by disembodied voices over the internet.

I hope that doesn’t happen.

Not because I’m anti-technology or because I want to preserve my job for all eternity, but because so many important things that are taught in schools every day aren’t officially on the curriculum.

I think there are plenty of aspects of grammar or math or science that can be taught on-line. And good teachers can and do access this technology and use it to benefit all students.

But what about the other things? Call them life lessons, if you want. We don’t plan on teaching them but when you deal with children, and people in general, these things come up. And I, for one, am glad they do.

Here are a few of my favorite life lessons

  1. Everyone has strengths and challenges…even teachers. Every year I tell my students the things that I am terrible at. I tell them that my drawing skills are abysmal and that I have absolutely no sense of direction and that I am woefully uncoordinated. Then I tell them that I am good at teaching writing and math and that I will do everything I can to help them have a great year. I tell them that each of them is going to be good at some things and that other things may be more challenging for them. And then I tell them that’s OK. All that matters is that we all try our best.
  2. Equal does not always mean the same. It’s important for kids to know that everyone learns differently and that sometimes other kids will get something they won’t because they need it. That doesn’t make it “not fair”. It just evens out the playing field.
  3. The world is a big place. One year I had two South Korean exchange students. Our social studies curriculum outcome that year was not to learn about South Korea but boy did we. Even showing kids where we are on a map of the big, wide world opens a flood of questions and wonder.
  4. Sometimes we have to work with people we don’t particularly like.  Some people will be bossy and some people will slack off. Some people will fool around and others will work like dogs. It will happen at school and at home and maybe even on your hockey team. It’s a fact of life. Learning how to deal with all different kinds of people is part of leading a successful life.
  5. Tests are no more than a measure of what you are able to express at this particular time in this particular place. They do not measure your worth as a person. A few years ago, I started reading report cards (privately) with my students before they were sent home. Knowing I would have to look into a child’s eyes as they saw their marks and my comments made me more accountable and conscious of what I was writing. When I sit with the student, I explain why I said what I did and why they got the mark that they got. I answer their questions and sometimes dry their tears. And I tell them that this piece of paper in no way measures them as a person. No test can do that.
  6. Respect and manners matter. Like all of us, kids often speak without thinking and sometimes that causes hurt feelings. In a classroom situation, they learn how important it is to be respectful of each other. Helping kids make the classroom a “safe” place to learn and take chances is one of the most important things a teacher can do.
  7. If you can laugh about something, everything is better. Once I sent a student out in the hall for disrupting the class. I told him I would be out in a minute to speak to him…and then…I promptly forgot about him. About 20 minutes (!) later, I went out in the hall to get something and was startled to see him sitting there against the wall. He knew instantly that I hadn’t been coming out to talk to him. “You forgot about me!” he said, incredulously. “No, I didn’t,” I stammered. “I just…I…” He started laughing and pointing at me, “Ohmygod! You forgot me!” I couldn’t fake it anymore. I started to laugh. “I’m sorry! It was just so quiet in there and I…” By this point we were both laughing hysterically – me and a 10-year-old boy who had almost driven me to distraction 20 minutes earlier. I apologized for forgetting him and he apologized for being a pain in the…neck…and the rest of the day was lovely.
  8. When you help out and contribute to making your class YOUR class, you are a part of something bigger than yourself. I generally like to leave some time at the end of every day for clean-up and organizing. Yes, I could do it myself at the end of the day. No, this doesn’t mean I’m a lazy teacher who is trying to race out the door as soon as the bell rings. Children who help keep their classroom neat, tidy, and organized are less likely to throw garbage on the floor or draw on their desks. Children who put their artwork on the walls and their writing on the bulletin boards are more likely to see their classroom as THEIRS. It’s not MY room, it’s OUR room. Hopefully these same kids will transfer this lesson to their home and their community.
  9. Today may have been a difficult day, but (hopefully) tomorrow will be better.* Some days will just not be fun and kids will end up learning a lesson that is not warm and fuzzy. Sometimes other kids will lie to them or be mean to them. Sometimes they will get in trouble for something that wasn’t their fault just because they were hanging out with the wrong people at the wrong time. Sometimes the teacher will get mad at the whole class for “no reason” just because she is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.** And that sucks. But hopefully everyone will learn that these things happen and that it doesn’t make someone good or bad but, rather, human. And that tomorrow will be better.
  10. Grade 4 (or 8 or 12) is a journey, not a destination. To paraphrase the great Steven Tyler, “Life’s a journey, not a destination” and school is a part of life. If every lesson plan is based on preparing for the next test or the next project or the next report card, then we are missing out on an amazing journey. Enjoy the moments. They are what matter.

Now YOU tell ME: If you are a teacher, what are the most important lessons YOU have taught that weren’t part of the curriculum? If you are/were a student, what important lesson did you learn from school that wasn’t part of the regular lesson plan?

“Today was a difficult day. Tomorrow will be better.” – Lily’s teacher, Mr. Slinger, helps Lily deal with disappointment in the amazing, hilarious Kevin Henke’s book, Lilly’s Plastic Purple Purse. I doubt Mr. Slinger checked that particular goal off any core curriculum outcome.
*“Today was a difficult day. Tomorrow will be better.” – Lily’s teacher, Mr. Slinger, helps Lily deal with disappointment in the amazing, hilarious Kevin Henke’s book, Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse. I doubt Mr. Slinger checked that particular goal off any core curriculum outcome.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day - Judith Viorst.
**Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day – Judith Viorst.
Memoir, Pop Culture, Princess, Rants, Raves, Suburban

Leave me alone…please.

Yet another reason why some animals eat their young.

Yeah, no one likes to be awakened at noon on a beautiful summer day, MOM!!!
The Heir: Yeah, no one likes to be awakened at noon on a beautiful summer day, MOM!!!
Did you see that?! It says, "Dad"...not "Mom"...not "Dad". I win!!!
The Spare: No barging in! (Did you see that?! It says, “Dad”…not “Mom”… “Dad”. I win!!!)

 

 

Rants, Suburban, Teacher

Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be assholes.

Like the rest of the world, the folks in my small Canadian community watched the court proceedings of the two boys charged with raping a classmate in Steubenville, Ohio with shocked dismay and horror. It was easy to look at those boys in Steubenville and say, “Oh, they’re different from us. They were small town football heroes, protected by their community.”

March 13, 2013, Facebook post by Rehtaeh Parsons. Less than month before she committed suicide.
March 13, 2013, Facebook post by Rehtaeh Parsons. Less than month before she committed suicide.

“That is so awful,” we said.

“Those kids are being raised with absolutely no morals or values,” many said smugly.

“I am so glad I am not raising kids in the states,” some said. “Thank God those things don’t happen here.”

Then today’s paper arrived and smacked that smug look right off our faces.

The headline screamed, “Who failed Rehtaeh Parsons?”

Rehtaeh Parsons was a 17-year-old girl from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia.

On Sunday night, Rehtaeh died after trying to commit suicide earlier that week.

A year and half ago, she had been raped by four boys. The rape was photographed and shared on the internet. Rehtaeh was shunned by her classmates and eventually changed schools.

Even after Rehtaeh switched schools the bullying continued. She received texts from boys asking her if she wanted to have sex and texts from girls calling her a slut.

Rehtaeh told her parents what happened a few days after the rape occurred. They immediately went to the police. Rehtaeh’s mother said the investigation took over a year and the boys themselves weren’t interviewed until long after the rape occurred. After a year of investigating, the RCMP said there was insufficient evidence to lay charges.

Could someone please tell me what the hell is going on???

What possesses a teenage boy to rape his classmate while his friends look on and join in like it’s some sort of bizarre drinking game?

What possesses a child (and I say “child” because these kids were children) to take a picture of this crime and post it on the internet for the world to see?

What possesses a teenage girl to send hateful text messages to someone who has already been victimized many times over instead of helping her?

Where was the empathy? Where was the sympathy? Where was the compassion?

Where were the adults???

It sounds like Rehtaeh’s parents were doing everything they could to help their daughter. What about the parents of the other children?

Don’t tell me people didn’t know. Cole Harbour is a small community. Everyone knew.

What did the parents of these boys do when they were told what their children had ‘allegedly’ done? There was photographic evidence for godsake! Did these boys go to counseling? What did their parents say or do to let their children know that what they did was wrong?

Did Mom and Dad stick their heads in the sand and say, “Not my boy. I know, I know. You have a picture of him doing this awful thing but it must have been her fault. My boy wouldn’t do that.”

And what about the parents of the kids who tormented Rehtaeh on Facebook and through text messages? Did they take away their children’s computers? Their phones? Were these children counseled on how their actions made another human being feel?

The scariest thing about all of this is that these kids who raped, bullied, and tortured Rehtaeh didn’t think of her as a human being. They dehumanized her, so that they could treat her the way they did. This is how bullying happens. It’s how genocide starts. It’s how the Holocaust occurred. If you don’t think someone is a person, worthy of your respect, then you don’t care what happens to them.

In her book “Just because it’s not wrong, doesn’t make it right” parenting expert, Barbara Coloroso talks about how we need to be raising compassionate, caring, empathetic children.

I know there are no quick fixes or easy answers. Nor is it possible to pour into our children all we have learned. Their learning must come from the inside out. They need opportunities to care and to share and to do. They need to be accountable for what they do or fail to do. They also need opportunities to reflect on moral issues, work through ethical dilemmas, and determine for themselves what kind of people they would like to become.

For godsake people. A child is dead. How many more children have to die before we start doing our jobs?

http://www.kidsareworthit.com/uploads/ethics_handout.pdf

Raves, Teacher

Yoga + Writing = Happy Students who Will Write and Write and Write…

Author: Sheree Fitch
Author: Sheree Fitch

I recently published a review of the book Breathe, Stretch, Write in the winter edition of AVISO, a magazine for Nova Scotia teachers. I was paid the princely sum of $75 for my efforts. (Yes, this why writers are such wealthy, wealthy people.)

But it wasn’t the promise of great riches that drew me to write this article.

This book has made my writing classes more enjoyable (for both me and my students), more interactive, and best of all, more productive.

Like most Canadian parents, I knew Sheree Fitch for her lyrical children’s books. Our family copy of Toes in My Noes is 18-years-old, ripped, stained and completely well-loved. You know those songs that get stuck in your head? Earworms? Sheree’s poems are like that. To this day, I can start with, “I stuck my toes in my nose and I couldn’t get them out” and someone in the house will follow with, “It looked a little strange and people began to shout!

As a teacher, I still read her poetry to my students, of all ages, because it’s fun and well written and the kids like it.

But this book? Wow. It’s an incredible teaching resource. She has made the lessons so easy to follow that you could put a sticky note on any one of the pages and leave it on your desk for a substitute teacher…without any explanation. It’s that straight-forward.

If you teach writing to children, do yourself a favour and get this book. You won’t regret it.

Here is a link the AVISO article, Breathe, Stretch, Write: Using Sheree Fitch’s Writing Resource in the Classroom.” The article opens in Adobe and starts on p.22.

To purchase this wonderful resource, link here to Pembroke Publishers.

Memoir, Pop Culture, Princess, Raves, Suburban, Teacher

The Sunshine Award – Yes, it’s all about me.

Sunshine Award

You like me! You really like me!

It appears I am a Sunshine Girl! A lovely lady over at http://1tric.wordpress.com/
nominated me for this blogging award. She follows me, I follow her – everyone wins by getting to read interesting posts on a regular basis.

I’m not really sure what a Sunshine Award means, but it’s a very pretty icon and I guess it’s better than a kick in the pants, so I’ll take it. Hooray for me!

The award comes with some rules that I must follow. They are:

* Make sure to post this award on your blog site. – Done
* Nominate ten fellow bloggers. – Done (see bottom of page and everyone over on the side, as well.)
* Please answer the ten questions. – and…Done-er-i-no.

1. What inspired you to start blogging?

I was tired of stifling my voice. As public servants and members of a union, teachers are expected (and actually required, in most cases) to keep their opinions to themselves. As someone who is, how shall I say it nicely, not exactly quiet about her opinions, I needed a place to vent, share and express myself.

2. How did you come up with a name for your blog?

I have always wanted to write a book called, Confessions of a Suburban Princess. I figured this blog would put me on the road to that goal. But the name, Suburban Princess, was already taken, so I tagged ‘Teacher’ on to the end and decided I actually prefered it.

3. What is your favorite blog to read?

http://thebloggess.com/ She makes me laugh with every post. She also inspired me to write this blog. After I read her best-selling book,  I thought, “Damn! That girl is crazier than a cat in a paper bag and she wrote a blog and a book. Maybe I could, too!”  Check her out…you won’t be sorry.

4. Tell me about your dream job.

I’m still not sure what I want to be when I grow up but my dream job should include beagles, George Clooney, wine and chocolate.

5. Is your glass half-full or half-empty?

It’s usually completely empty…I’m a chugger.

6. If you could go anywhere for a week’s vacation, where would you go?

Barcelona, Spain.

7. What food can you absolutely not eat?

Liver. It’s disgusting. I had to eat it once a month when I was a teenager because my mother was convinced it would raise my iron levels when I was men-stru-ate-ing. Helllooo? Had we not heard of iron supplements in the 80’s?? There’s really no need to eat an animals’ internal organs.

8. Dark chocolate or milk chocolate?

I’d like to say dark because it’s politically correct and all, but no…I could eat milk chocolate until it flowed from my orifices like lava. Pour it overtop of a soft gummy bear and you have my heart forever.

9. How much time do you spend blogging?

Not a lot. I don’t like it to get in the way of my “Vampire Diaries” watching.

10. Do you watch TV? If so, what are your favorite shows?

Of course I watch TV…what do you think I am? Amish? I LOVE TV and now that I have Netflix, I may never go back to work. I’ll just sit at home, eating my milk chocolate, watching series after series…ahhhh, bliss. Favorite shows? Vampire Diaries, Days of our Lives, The Good Wife, The Mentalist, What not to Wear…yes, I am an intelligent girl.

That’s it for the questions about ME. (Sadly.) And now, for the final part of this assignment: ten of my favorite bloggers. Check them out, if you have time on your hands that you don’t know what to do with. Also: I love the people down the side of my blog. They are cool, too. Enjoy.

OTHER AWESOME BLOGGERS

1. http://carrieblueberry.wordpress.com/

2. http://illbeoutinaminute.com/

3. http://siobhancurious.com/

4. http://5kidswdisabilities.com/

5. http://anotherthousandwords.wordpress.com/

6. http://ineedanewman.wordpress.com/

7.  http://peachyteachy.wordpress.com/

8.  http://pamela984.wordpress.com/

9. http://yacantgohome.wordpress.com/

10. http://thefoodgirlintown.wordpress.com/

Rants, Teacher

Why Common Sense Education lacks Common Sense

writing30The student make-up of your average classroom has changed so dramatically over the past few decades that it is barely recognizable. So why are reformists suggesting we go “back to basics”? Why not go forward?

In a recent article, Mr. Zwaagstra, a representative for a group called Common Sense Education, says that teachers need to stop treating students like individuals and instead, focus on the subject:

Instead of wasting their time designing multiple lessons for each topic, teachers should put more effort into instructing the whole class at the same time. Students would learn more and teachers would have more time to focus on things that really matter.

Quick question, Mr. Zwaagstra: when was the last time YOU, or any of your Common Sense Educating peers, were in a classroom?  I’m not talking about a homogeneous grade 11 Chemistry class where all of the students have already met the pre-requisites. That’s a challenging job but it’s not the same as teaching in a mixed abilities classroom.

I’m talking about a public school elementary or middle school classroom, where integration is fully in place.

Let me paint you a little picture I like to call “reality”.

It’s September and you have been assigned a class of 30 beautiful grade 4 children. You can tell already that they are nice kids and you want to do your absolute best to help them be the best they can be.

Besides yourself, you have a one teacher’s aid (or EPA) assigned to work one-on-one with a high needs student in your class.

There are thirty (30) students in your room. Six (6) have Individual Plans (meaning they are at least 2 grade levels behind their peers and have specific goals designed to help them improve), four (4) have Behavior Plans (this means they are disruptive to themselves, the teacher and the rest of the class), and five (5) have Adaptations, meaning they can meet the outcomes if they have a special accommodation in place. These adaptations can vary wildly, from making sure the student sits at the front of the room to having someone to write down everything they want to say because they have a writing disability.  (Note: Some children have more than one of these plans in place.)

That makes 15 children who need some sort of individualized support. Half your class.

Now, let’s go deeper. Those six children with Individual Plans? They are all different. They are as different as you and I, which means their plans are different.

One boy, who is big for his age, has severe autism and operates at a 3-year-old level, needing support for toileting and all other personal needs. He shouts out when he gets upset or overwhelmed or just plain excited and has been known to bite. He has EPA support and spends part of his day in the learning centre.

One boy has Asperger syndrome, which means he misses a lot of the social cues that his peers understand. This often results in hurt feelings and social unrest. He also cannot complete his work with one-on-one support. He does not have an EPA.

Two children are multiple grade levels behind in their math and two others can barely read at a grade 1 level. They do not have EPA support either.

Let’s see, what’s next?

Oh right. Behavioural issues.

One of your students lives in foster care, having suffered neglect and abuse at the hands of his parents and grandparents. At any given time, he could be crawling on the floor, barking like a dog, or snuggling in close, asking you to “please, please be my mommy.” The next minute he tells you to f-off and the struggle to remove him from the classroom, once again, begins.  He does not have an EPA.

And remember, he’s only one of four students with his own behaviour plan. And they are all different. Some have ADHD, which may mean they are all over the place or it may mean they are completely introverted. You will figure out which is which pretty quickly.

What about the other 15?

A few of these kids are your very bright and very independent learners. They are usually placed at the back of the room because the front is needed for the kids who need one-on-one support and special cueing. They are usually bored senseless because you have to go over the same lesson 3 times when they have already gotten it the first time.

Finally, you have your so-called average kids who will do their work and make A’s and B’s and fly under the radar all year, unless you purposely make it your mission to focus on them.

That’s your class. I’ll admit…it’s a challenging one but sadly, it’s not unusual.

So, tell me, how do you focus on the subject and not the student when you have such a rich, diverse group of learners? How do you put aside everything you know about the child as a learner and just say, “The heck with it. I’m teaching one lesson, one way and if you don’t get it, too bad.”

How is this common sense?

Princess, Rants, Raves, Suburban, Teacher

Snow Days – Every job is different

writing16

Today was a Snow Day. Capital “S”, capital “D”, which means students and teachers in our school district had the day off.

This also means the haters were out in full force once again on talk radio (or as I call it, Old Man Radio). Teacher-haters love Old Man Radio. It gives them a chance to publicly air their views about all the wrongs they see in society. Most of which are caused by lazy-ass teachers.

I wish I could host that radio show when these issues come up.

“School’s cancelled again, which means teachers get a day off! It’s crazy! Why should teachers be allowed to stay home when I have to go to work?!” shouts the irate caller, obviously taking a short break from his very important job.

“Oh, I see. So you think things should be the same for everybody?”

“Yeah, right. They should be the same.” The caller is happy now.

“So, everyone should make the same salary, work the same hours, get the same benefits, and have the same rules regarding their employment?”

“Well, no,” he stammers. “I mean, you know, every job is different.”

Right.

Every job is different.

writing17 scene-where-a-school-bus-slid-off-the-road-at-abercarn-178024589

There are so many jobs that I could not, would not, or choose not, to do.

As much as I would like to make the money that comes with being a surgeon, I didn’t have the brains or the desire to do all the work it takes to become one. Do I begrudge them their high salary and all the other perks of their job? No. I understand that in order to get those things, you have to do all the work beforehand and afterward and I wasn’t prepared to do that.

And as much as I would love to argue cases in a courtroom and learn all about interesting facts of laws, I know I wouldn’t have the ability to remain neutral. So, do I hate lawyers for doing what they do even though I wasn’t able to do it myself? Of course not. That would be illogical.

Someone in a high-end sales position can make my entire annual salary in bonuses and incentives. Does that annoy me? No, because I didn’t choose to go that route. I couldn’t sell ice cream to kids on a sunny day.

There are a million jobs that I think would be fascinating and interesting, but I know I’m not suited for them.

Here’s the thing: I don’t begrudge anyone the salary they make or the benefits they enjoy from their chosen career. I know that no matter what your job, there are ups and downs. Perks and pains. And people pick their careers according to what they want out of life. Do you want lots of money or do you want more freedom and free time? Do you want to help people, animals, or the environment? Everyone makes their own decisions.

I’m a teacher. I’m suited for that and I’m good at it. And I worked really, really hard to get to where I am today. Three degrees, student loans, numerous mandatory courses and workshops, and years of dead-end short-term contract positions just to get the opportunity for a full-time position.

Some people are suited to teaching. Other people are not. If you don’t enjoy teaching, if it doesn’t make you tick, you’re going to have a very difficult time in the classroom. If you’re doing it for the summer break or the rare Snow Day, enjoy that time, because you are going to pay for it the rest of the year.

That’s why it ticks me off when non-teacher-types complain about Snow Days.

Snow Days are magical for those of us who get to experience their joy.

Unfortunately, not everyone gets to have this experience. In fact, the majority of the population doesn’t. Most people have to leave their homes extra early in the middle of dangerous driving conditions in order to get to their job.

And I’m sorry about that. If I ruled the world, unless you were in a mandatory service industry (like fire, hospital or police personnel), I’d let you stay home until the plows cleared the streets and made it safe for everyone to get back on the roads. But since I don’t, all I can say is this.

Yes, teachers get the day off during a Snow Day. It’s part of the job. Just like cleaning up a child when they get sick on themselves. Or helping them through an argument with a friend. Or teaching them how to read when that’s the hardest part of their day. It’s a part of the job like writing report cards late into the night. And being cursed at by angry students and parents. It’s a part of the job like a million other things that make up the position.

I’m not going to complain about doing any of those things; however, I’m also not going to apologize for the occasional Snow Day or the summers off.

I have the job I chose and worked my butt off for. And for now…my job includes Snow Days.

UPDATE: March 1, 2015Are you a teacher? Do you want your say on snow days and other issues affecting teachers? Click here to add your two cents to a survey. It is completely anonymous and takes less than 5 minutes to complete. 

writing15

Rants, Raves, Teacher

Top Ten Tips for Student Teachers

EHougan_COVER_fnl_outlineMany (many, many) years ago, I did my student teaching at my old high school with my old high school English teacher. I was even placed in the same room where I passed notes to my friends and tried not to fall asleep during first period. On the first day of my internship, my advisor/former teacher gave me a few tips and then retired to the staff room, leaving me on my own to teach a room full of teenagers. It was a baptism by fire and I made plenty of mistakes. I wouldn’t recommend it, but luckily it worked out OK in the end. I had a wonderful student teaching experience that made me determined to pursue a teaching career.

Many years later, the tables turned and I was the (semi) experienced teacher assigned my very first student teacher. I was excited to get her because I had a challenging class that year. I thought two adults in the room would be better than one. Unfortunately, it was not a good experience. My student teacher was overwhelmed with part-time work and family responsibilities and was argumentative about anything that required work on her part. Looking back on it, there are lots of things I could have done differently. Here are some of the things I wish I had said.

10. I have no doubt that you had a great education but you don’t know everything just yet. Listen to other teachers, talk to them about what you’re doing, take advice gracefully. You don’t have to do everything that is suggested, but do understand that experience does count for something.

9. Learn everyone’s name, not just your students (although you should know theirs as soon as possible). Talk to the ladies in the cafeteria and the man who cleans your classroom. Make a point to check in with the principal and vice-principal when you have some free time and see how you can help. This will go a long way towards getting you some work as a substitute teacher once you graduate.

8. Treat everyone with equal respect, no matter how old or young they are. I have taught students from 5-50+ and I generally don’t change the way I deal with them. Of course, you use different words depending on their age and understanding, but children deserve to be treated with the same respect as adults. For godsake, never use baby-talk. You aren’t their grandmother, you’re their teacher. I don’t care how cute little Suzy looks in her new dress, she’s not a baby being passed around at a baby shower. She needs you to treat her like a learner, not a doll.

7. Be prepared! In fact, be over prepared. I can’t stress this enough. The quickest way to lose the attention of your class is to be scrambling around trying to find your notes or to upload something on to the overhead projector. The minute they see that you’re weak, you’ve lost them and it’s really hard to get them back.

6. Understand that your students will all be working at different levels of ability. Make sure you read and understand their individual adaptations and program plans. Take special care to spend time with the special needs students in your room who have their own teacher’s aide. Some of your sweetest experiences may be with these kids; don’t miss out on that opportunity. Remember: you are responsible for ALL the students in your class.

5. Be prepared to be flexible. There may be an assembly or a fire drill that causes you not to get something covered that you were hoping to get done. Or you may think you are going to get through a math concept in one day only to discover it’s going to take a lot longer than that. Remember: you’re teaching to the children in front of you, not the lesson plan on your desk. It’s a map but the children are your compass. They will tell you what needs more or less attention. Watch them carefully.

4. Get to know your students. Talk to them. Ask your cooperating teacher if you can head up a current events conversation a few times a week. See who plays sports and who plays an instrument. Find out who got a new cat and whose grandmother just died. Even if you’re not on duty, go outside at recess and see what your students are up to. Take a walk through the cafeteria at lunchtime and see who is eating alone and who is stealing treats from someone else’s lunch. Some kids are very different in social situations than they are in a classroom. It helps to know them when you are trying to teach them.

3. Spend some time getting to know the specialists in your school. Talk to the resource teachers, learning centre specialists, school psychologist and speech therapists. It’s important that teachers work as part of a team. Some kids require a whole village of support in order to be successful. You might also find that you are interested in pursuing a career outside of teaching but still within the school system. Teaching doesn’t have to be a 30-year-career. There are lots of opportunities out there.

2. Cooperate with your cooperating teacher. There is nothing worse for a cooperating teacher than having a difficult student teacher. It’s like having an extra student. Yes, we know you don’t get paid. And yes, we understand you may have a part-time job or a family or a dog that needs to be walked. But you’ve taken on this responsibility and you need to take it seriously.

1. Finally, take some time to reflect on whether or not you actually like what you’re doing. You may discover that it’s not what you expected. Perhaps this ISN’T how you want to spend the next 20-30 years of your life. And that’s OK. Finish your degree and look for something else. It’s better than spending your life doing something you don’t enjoy. But if you do LOVE it, grit your teeth and work your butt off for free. Someday, karma will reward you.

Princess, Rants, Suburban, Teacher

UPDATE: Peter Speight: We are never, ever, ever getting back together…like…ever.

UPDATE – Peter Speight, the sex-offender/former teacher in the New Germany, NS area, has agreed to resign and give up his teaching licence in exchange for a big whack of cash. The amount is confidential but it is on top of the $150,000 in back pay that he says he deserves. Whatever. He’s gone and the community of New Germany can breathe a big sigh of relief. Read more at: http://ckbwnews.blogspot.ca/

lemonadeDear Peter,

Seriously, dude? Did you not read my last letter? What are you doing?

I get it. We all get it. You want your teaching job back. The same job you had before you pleaded guilty to sex charges. You want to come back and teach grade 3, in your old school, like nothing ever happened.  And you want your money back. The money you didn’t make…because you didn’t work…because you were fired…for pleading guilty to sexual offenses. (Do you not hear how crazy this sounds?)

If you had any doubts as to how people felt about you coming back, I would hope last night’s (court ordered) restorative justice session at your old school put those notions to bed. I read in this morning’s paper that more than 100 concerned citizens showed up to say they do not want you teaching their children – ever. The goal was to come up with a reintegration plan to bring you back, but as the coordinator of the session said after it ended, “we couldn’t get to that point because they were too heated about the fact they don’t want him back in the school.”

Peter, Peter, Peter. I’ve taught Grade 3 and let me tell you something about grade 3 students: they aren’t stupid. They hear things and they sense things and they will know on Day 1 that you are the guy who did that weird thing in his car with those ladies. And trust me: their imaginations will make what you did freakier than anything you could ever imagine.

They also aren’t wired to understand that you did something gross and weird a few years ago, but now you’re all better. Their sense of time is a little warped. To them, five years is like five days.

They may also be frightened of you because sex is something they don’t really understand yet. We don’t teach the ins-and-outs of sex until they are much older because most of them aren’t ready for that kind of discussion. What in the world could their parents tell them if they are placed in your class? “Well, dear, if he reaches for his zipper, grab your things and get the hell out of there.” Not a discussion I would want to have with my eight-year-old.

But I shouldn’t have to tell you this. You should already know this because you are an educated, experienced teacher. This leaves me to conclude that you are not rehabilitated. If you were truly sorry for what you had done to your community, especially the children, you would not be putting them through this shitshow. This quest for your old job has become a weird obsession that none of us understand. And we all know where your last strange obsession led.

Memoir, Teacher

“Yes, Max, there IS a word worse than the F-word.”

I knew it was too good to be true. My grade 5 students were diligently working on their writing in a manner befitting the Writers Workshop model in which I had just been trained. Each student was in a different stage of writing: some were still brainstorming, others were in the throes of getting their ideas down on paper, and some were editing and revising with a friend. The classroom had the electric buzz of learning echoing throughout.

I was working one-on-one with a student at the computer, practically spraining my shoulder patting myself on the back for coordinating such a great lesson, when suddenly, young Max piped up from the opposite side of the room. Max was (supposed to be) editing his work with his classmate, Gord.

“Mrs. H!” he stage-whispered.

I ignored him. He knew the rules. We don’t shout from across the room. Besides, I made it clear that students were to be working independently while I was conferencing with a student. Unless you are on fire, don’t bother me.

“Mrs. H!” he said, again, obviously missing my hand signals and eye daggers. “Gord says there’s a word that’s worse than the F-word.”

“Shut up, Max,” Gord said, pushing him.

Yes, Max, shut up, I thought.

“Don’t say ‘shut up’, Gord. Are you on fire, Max?” I asked, looking over at him. “No, it appears not. So, do your work, please.”

I tried to refocus. The Writers Workshop leader had said that students would work independently if you set the proper environment. She obviously didn’t have Max and Gord in her class.

Short pause.

“Gord says it starts with “k”,” he tried again, this time a little louder, obviously annoyed that I wasn’t giving his question the attention it deserved.

“Enough, Max!” I said more firmly. “Ignore, Gord and do your work.”

Gord smirked at Max and shrugged his shoulders.

The class had slowly gotten eerily quiet as this exchange had gone on. I was secretly pleased that they were all working so diligently and bent back to the student I was conferencing with.

Max tried again.

“He said it was really bad.”

I ignored him.

His voice boomed through the air, blocking out every other sound within 10-mile-radius.

“He said the word was kunt.”

The word hung in the room like smoke from a nuclear bomb.

Every set of 10-year-old eyes turned from Max to me and then back to Max, who just looked at me, pleased to finally have my attention.

Gord put his head down on his desk and shook it back and forth.

Time moved in slow motion as my brain scrolled through the possible appropriate responses to this situation. And yet I knew instinctively that this hadn’t been covered in any of my education classes. I stood up and walked to the centre of the room.

“First of all,” I began slowly. “It’s the “c-word”. That word is spelled with a “c” not a “k”.”

Deep breath.

“Second, I would have to say, that Gord….” I glared at Gord, who had just lifted his head off the desk and was trying not to laugh, “…is right. Many people would say this word is much worse than the f-word.”

“Why?”

The question came from one of the sweet girls who sat at the back of the room with her twin sister.

“Why is it worse than the “f-word?” she asked again. “What does it mean?”

She reminded me of Cindy-Lou-Who when she asks the Grinch why he’s talking their Christmas tree…why?

Sweet Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

“Well,” I began again, trying to figure out what I could say that would bring this line of questioning to a merciful end. “It refers to a woman’s private parts and it’s considered to be a very, very rude word. It’s insulting to girls and women and you really don’t want to be using it.”

There was silence.

Then the boys in the class exploded with laughter, holding their sides, some falling out of their seats. The girls, on the other hand, were indignant. They went after the boys with the fury only a gaggle of 10-year-old girls can muster.

“Ewwww!”

“You guys are disgusting!”

“That’s so gross!”

“You are so immature!”

As the chaos ensued, I motioned for Gord and Max to join me in the hall.

Max was white as a ghost.

“I didn’t know what it meant,” he said. “Am I in trouble?”

“You may not have known what it meant,” I said. “But you did know that it meant something that wasn’t appropriate. So I will be telling your mother about it. You and she can have a little discussion about school appropriate language. Now go back inside.”

As he walked back into the classroom, I turned to my potty-mouthed culprit, who was still trying not to laugh.

“You, my friend, ARE in trouble.”

Without a word, Gord turned and marched himself to the office. He knew what was coming but he also knew it was totally worth it.