It was Friday morning at school and teachers and students were all buzzing about their exciting vacation plans. One of my students always brings his homework to me every morning because he has a sticker chart where he can earn prizes, but this particular morning when he came, he did not have his usual smile or skip in his step. I asked him what was wrong and he was quiet. I tried to get it out of him, but again, he began fiddling with objects on my desk to avoid conversation. I immediately cracked a joke to get him smiling and then sent him off to class. A little later in the day, I got an email from the art teacher that said he was having a rough time and was refusing to do work. Both his classroom teacher and myself were concerned, so we pulled him aside a little later to try to get him to open up about what he was feeling. He finally voiced that he was sad about vacation because he did not want to be away from school for a week. His classroom teacher and I were floored. This student has a very difficult time learning, but always persists and does the best he can. He has also had a more difficult home life, so both of us understood why he was feeling this way. The classroom teacher immediately gave him a journal that he could write in every day, and he also got to pick out brand new books from the reading room so he could read them over break. Every day of vacation so far I have thought of this student, and I hope that he is using his journal and reading his books so he can enjoy his vacation. Seeing a child upset about vacation was a first for me, and definitely opened my eyes to the reality that students’ behavior can be triggered by many factors, so before automatically getting upset at the child, take time to figure out why the student is upset before jumping to conclusions. Your response could make or break that student’s day.
Last Friday, it was another day of long meetings, testing, computer problems, and both students and teachers were getting frustrated. I was sitting in one of my intervention meetings when the social worker joined us. We had a little time before the meeting started so the two of us quietly started talking about one of our third grade students. He goes to see the social worker to talk about different coping skills that he can use when he gets frustrated. At my school, they use the Angry Birds coping skills seen below:
We were talking about a session they had just recently had together, and the third grade boy was talking about when he gets frustrated and what he does. The social worker and the boy began to talk about Mighty Eagles, and who his Mighty Eagles were. The boy respond, Miss Uricchio is a Mighty Eagle. The social worker asked why and my student said, “Because she tells me I can do it and she is proud of me”.
When the social worker told me this, I was so overwhelmed. I knew that since I began my job in January, I had made a special connection with this child, but for him to say that I am a Mighty Eagle really made my day! Teachers take so much time trying to have everything perfect and planning extravagant activities, but all the kids want to know is that someone cares and believes in them.
Take time to be your kids’ Mighty Eagle.
What the teacher is, is more important than what he teaches. ~Karl Menninger
Today, I witnessed a third grader break down because of many different factors. One of those factors was the Smarter Balanced test. The other very influential factor was the substitute tutor who was working with him today. Witnessing the destruction of this student’s mental state was heart breaking and I obviously intervened, but not before I saw how much a person’s demeanor towards a student can influence them. This third grade boy went from being all smiles, to sobbing. This child broke down not once, but three times. The way a teacher interacts with a student is EVERYTHING. The substitute tutor was not invested in the child, and this child could feel that. As I reflect on what I witnessed, I came to the realization that the way you treat a child is everything. Haim Ginott says:
“I’ve come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous, I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or de-humanized.”
This paragraph is framed and is hanging next to my desk. When days get tough and things get stressful, I re-read these important words, because they are true. The teacher can make or break a child’s spirit. In the case of today, this child did not leave feeling good about himself.
No matter how stressed out teachers can get, I also have to remember how much stress is getting put on the students as well. Today was a perfect example of a child snapping under the pressure when the demeanor was not as positive or up-beat.
“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
— Carl W. Buechner
Two of my third graders have been working on the fraction basics, and they have just recently started equivalent fractions. One of the students did a really good job visualizing the different sizes, but the other student was having some difficulty. I pulled out my fraction bars so the student could really see the equivalent fractions. At this point both students were doing a good job shading in the pictures and writing down the equivalent fraction, but I was still having them prove it to me with the fraction bars.
Towards the end of the lesson, one of the boys realized that two halves equal a whole. Curious to see where this discovery would lead, I asked them how many thirds would equal a whole. After holding up both fraction bars, the boys both shouted, “three thirds!”. I began to write the equivalent fractions on the board: 1 = 2/2 = 3/3. The boys’ excitement continued to build as they found more fractions that equaled one whole. I sat there watching, feeding into their excitement while writing the fractions they told me on the board. All of a sudden, one of the boys shouted, “I see a pattern!” Cautiously I asked him what he saw, and he said that when the numerator and denominator are the same, it equals one whole.
Discovering fractions equivalent to one whole was not written in my lesson plan, but the boys had discovered it on their own. The excitement in their eyes as they learned with each other was priceless, and it would not have been half as meaningful if I had simply told them that when the numerator and denominator are the same, it is one whole. This learning experience was so meaningful for them, and also gave them a sense of accomplishment since they had discovered it all on their own.
“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”
Help! This past week I have felt like I have it all together and I am on top of my work, and then all of a sudden I find myself swimming in a pool of paper work and assignments. Because of my extreme type A personality I begin to worry about things that may be out of control, as well as things that are so far away. Perhaps one of my biggest concerns now is starting to apply for teaching jobs for next fall. I have heard great success stories, and I have also heard of people searching for a job for years, so needless to say, this has me very worried. The job that I have now is wonderful and I was definitely at the right place at the right time. But now, how do I go about applying for all of these jobs when I have a full time job, plus school, plus teaching dance 20 hours a week!?! I am beginning to think I need to give up sleeping! For now I have to focus on what I can do and not focus on what I can not control. What ever happens will happen!
Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one.
In continuing to think about my dancing school and all that I have learned from my teachers. I realize that the most important thing they taught me was not the steps or the choreography, but it was how to be a better person and how to treat others. They did this by treating me like an individual, not just another number. I feel that todays schools focus so much on test scores and getting through the curriculum in a certain amount of time, that schools are becoming factories. The students are becoming grouped together and being treated like robots instead of individual people. No wonder people say that the youth of tomorrow won’t know how to act, it’s because they are not being taught! When I was in elementary school not so long ago, I learned all that was necessary, but I do not remember what each individual teacher taught me. I remember who they were as people, and how they treated me.
In first grade my teacher made it a point to incorporate other languages and cultures into our classroom, so around Hanukah, a friends dad came in with authentic learning and made us latkes.
In second grade I remember my teacher dancing on the table on the last day of school, just like she promised us she would do from day one. I also remember she was one of the kindest people you will ever meet.
In fifth grade instead of reading about the Oregon Trail, we were on the Oregon Trail, and our desks were arranged to be set up like wagons. This was not only a great history lesson, but also a great lesson in teamwork. We also were able to make a movie about a book we read, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. We had to write the script, audition for parts, and select the set and costumes. To this day, my fifth grade teacher is my favorite teacher, and not just because of the fun activities we did, but also because she pushed us to our full potential and did not accept anything less than that. She treated us like humans.
I guess my point is that as a new teacher, excited to come into this field, I do not want my creativity to be crushed because of the way schools are now. I know that students have to learn certain skills, but does that mean that we all have to teach those skills the same way? My dancing school is unique because dancers have a name and a personality, they are not just a number, and my teachers go out of the way to make sure that each and every dancer feels special. Below is my first attempt at an Animoto showcasing some of my dancing memories along the way.
“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
— Carl W. Buechner
In order to learn a little more about me, it is crucial that you know a little more about my life. It is obvious that I have a passion for teaching and for children, but another huge part of my life is dance. I have been taking dance classes since I was two years old. I started out taking tap and ballet, and after a few years, I discovered Irish step dancing. From that point on, Irish step dancing was pretty much my world. I lived and breathed Irish dance. I became involved in the Irish competitions and I have competed at the local, regional and national level for many years. Recently, I have retired from the competition scene and moved on to teach dance classes. Throughout this whole process, I was not only taught how to be a good dancer, but I was also taught many life lessons including how to work hard, and how to be a good friend. The dance academy that I attend stands out from many other dance schools not only because of the talented dancers that are molded, but also because of the people that this dancing school creates. Through dance, my teachers were able to teach us about respect, honesty and many other qualities that seem to be lacking in our society today. I will be forever grateful to my dancing school for all of the life lessons that they have taught me. At the heart of this dancing school is one of my teachers, and the director of the academy. This beautiful person is such an inspiration to me in so many ways. She handles every situation with poise and grace, and every decision she makes whether it be business or personal, she takes into consideration what is best for all of her students. There are hundreds of students, so this is no small task, but that does not stop her. She manages to teach all of the dance steps and techniques that need to be taught, and still has time to squeeze in a life lesson here or there. I have had the honor of growing up with this woman, and she absolutely has everything to do with who I am today. Of all the amazing role models in my life, she is without a doubt one of the most influential people in my life. Not only has she been my teacher for over ten years, but now I have had the pleasure of working next to her as a new teacher on staff at the academy. I cannot express all that she has taught me, but the main reason why she is so inspirational is because she is always such a positive light no matter what else is happening. It does not matter how much chaos is happening, or how much she has on her plate, she puts her heart and soul into making each child feel special and unique, and it is my goal to embody her mindset when teaching both dance, and in schools. Just as I have learned a lot from imitating my dance teacher, children learn very quickly from imitating others, and that has been very evident both when observing dance classes, and classrooms in a school. Ultimately, I believe the most important thing I can teach my students is how to be a good person, and that all starts with me.
“What the teacher is, is more important than what he teaches. ”