Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Making a Positive First Impression with Parents

When I was a new teacher, and even when I had taught for years but had moved to a different school, I struggled with what to write in an introduction to parents. Should I get personal, or should I avoid any "touchy-feely" stuff to maintain my professionalism? I don't think there are easy answers!

I found it helpful to read other teachers' introductions, and for that reason, I share the, "About Me"  from my teaching blog here. I would have simply linked to the page, but my school last year kept teacher blogs private within the school community.

Hope this is helpful!

I am so excited to be in Grade 4 at **** School for my third year. We are going to have a wonderful year, exploring, discovering connections with ourselves, each other, and the global community.

Although it's difficult to capture all I would like to share with you in such a brief post, there are a few things that I would love for you to know and remember in our year together as teammates:
  1. I am here to listen, ask clarifying questions, answer your questions, and work with you in helping your child discover ways that he/she learns best.
  2. I believe that celebrating the strengths and unique qualities of students allows them to flourish and to build resilience so that they thrive through the toughest of challenges. You can read more on my personal blog, if you'd like to know more about my philosophy.
  3. I care deeply about the students in my class. I do my best to get to know them, but I don't know them as you do.  Please let me know when there is something happening that may impact your child's learning. I want to be proactive in supporting your child.
  4. I will challenge your child and work diligently to empower him/her to become an independent, responsible learner. I ask that you also encourage your child to step into a "discomfort zone" in order to grow. When students find success in taking on these new challenges, they often gain an extraordinary feeling of confidence. `
  5. I consider teaching to be an art and a science. In order to engage students in active learning, I must always be designing and redesigning the curriculum to meet the needs of the unique students in my class.
  6. I am a proud mom of 2 incredible children: Stefanie, age 24, who is attending graduate school in North Carolina and Nick, age 25, who graduated from MIT last year and works as a mechanical engineer in New Hampshire. Being a mother has profoundly impacted me in my journey to make learning in the classroom relevant and challenging for all children. My experience with my own kids has reinforced my understanding of the uniqueness of each learner.

I'd love to know what you include in your introduction to parents! Please share in the comments. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Taboo: When Teachers Don't Like Their Students

Listen here to this show.

It's that time of year, when teachers around the country are looking over their class lists, preparing for their first days of school, and often experiencing intense reactions, positive and negative, to the names on their rosters.

Let's face it. Kids have reputations, with their peers, neighbors, siblings, and with school staff. Unfortunately, even when I taught kindergarten, there were kids already known for their "challenging behaviors." From a 30 minute assessment period, as well as comments from their preschool teachers, some kids were already stamped with a big red mark on their placement cards.

Why do I write, "challenging behaviors"  and not "difficult kids?"

My answer is simple: Children are not simply the sum of the behaviors they bring into the classroom. Although we all know this, we don't always seem to remember this when those behaviors threaten to take our class down. We can feel like hostages, victims, and punching bags at times as we try every trick in our book to make headway.

I've been there, trust me. And I'm not saying there are easy answers. No sticker chart, stoplight system, or gummy bear is going to disrupt a pattern of behavior perhaps inadvertently maintained by many others who came before me. There are so many complicating factors and reasons why kids act the way they do!

I'm not saying, "Oh yes, I love them all," in that sweet sappy voice that makes you want to slap me. I do believe, though, that it's our job to find something to connect to, something we can find redeeming, so that we can begin to build a relationship with the student.

We recently talked about this very topic in the Taboo series on BAM radio. When the tough questions came my way, I found myself sounding a bit too idealistic and later a little frustrated that I hadn't spoken up more.
Because of that, I recorded my thoughts afterward on AudioBoo.

I know that I haven't given any easy answers. I wish there were some. But I do believe that talking about this topic is a first step. There are some tactics I employ to find ways to connect to students who are deemed as, "tough." I'll save those for the next post!

So, what do you think? How do you handle the issue of liking students?