Humiliation? Never.

Humiliation? Never.

Recently, my social media feed offered a repost of an edutopia blog article I had read last year. It is one of those articles worthy of re-reading, re-posting, and re-sharing. Previously, I had shared the article with an administrator in our school district.  The reason being is that we experienced some long-lasting effects of student humiliation.  A humiliating incident in a math class last year, early in the semester, in which a teacher called my son “stupid” in front of his peers basically caused him to “shut down”.  Consequently, he did not get much out of the class he was taking, had no interest in going to this very sarcastic teacher for help, and resulted in a year-long bout of lowered self-confidence, periodic anger, and self-doubt.

Last month, I thought we were “over the hurdle” as it had been almost a year since the incident and my son seemed to be “holding his own” in his subsequent, but now current, math class. However, after having to speak to the guidance counselor about changing  an elective, the past experience with this teacher was broached again, bringing about more tears, and a renewed sense of anxiety.  I think my son was thinking, “will they ever remember me for anything other than what happened last year?” Well, the  answer to that is they have and they will, as some other very nice opportunities have been sent his way by the same guidance office. In addition, the teacher he has for this year’s class in the same subject area projects a much different attitude, has gotten to know my son, and has taken steps to individualize his instruction. It appears he is a conceptual learner and approaches new information from a big picture vantage point, rather than spiraling up with details to understand the concept in the way most students learn. It is unusual, but can be worked with by a compassionate, knowledgeable educator.

So, why do I write about this today? There are several reasons. First, it needs to be said that as parents, we are very supportive of our childrens’ education. Academics come first in our house and our boys know that. However, with that said, we also believe that our teachers must get to know their students.  This was one of the most grevous errors leading to the experience of last year. Assumptions about our student were made. They were incorrect. This particular teacher taught one way, in a manner that was not conducive to our son’s learning style. However, instead of finding ways that might help him, she used sarcasm and humiliation. This was not acceptable. I do believe she might have been willing to help him by reinforcing what she had gone over in class, but would have not done so by using a different demeanor or by approaching him without sarcasm.  He was unwilling to approach her for help because of the way he had been treated in class – with humiliation.  It is due to the inappropriate use of humiliation in the classroom that I write about this subject today.

Finally, I will leave you with a few thoughts to consider as you teach.

  1. Do not humiliate your students, for any reason.
  2. Use a variety of teaching models/styles in your presentation of material.
  3. Connect with your students. Get to know them.
  4. Think about whether your teaching style is meeting the learning styles of your students. Work to reach as many students as you can using various models.
  5. As a parent, speak up if you find something does not seem right, using the chain of command, if at all possible.
  6. Do not be afraid to remove your student from a situation in which he/she is not learning, if you feel that would be best. We did not do this, as my son did not want to be removed from this class. In hind sight, we should have, as we have seen that he did not absorb much because he could not get past his feelings toward this teacher and her classroom style. However, our district policies state the a student will receive an “F” if the class is dropped after the first two days of the term. This was also a consideration in our decision.
  7. Work to change district policy to enable fair and reasonable choices for students, not only teachers, regarding course changes.

Thanks for the opportunity to share blog posts on Slice of Life Tuesday: TwoWritingTeachers!

Summer Learning: Ramp Up your Vocabulary!

Summer Learning: Ramp Up your Vocabulary!

An earlier post of mine regarding ideas for summer learning drew some attention from online readers. It is still receiving regular views, despite not being published recently. This tells me that people, most likely parents, are looking for ways to enrich their children over the summer. Over the next few months, I will try to offer a more specific, weekly ideas on things you can do over the summer to enrich your child.

One area that can always use opportunity for enrichment is language arts. When my boys were younger, let’s say between kindergarten and 6th grade, I encouraged them to learn new words over the summer by making a “word wall” on their closet door.  The words I chose to post, usually on Sundays, came from words encountered in a book they were reading or from a resource book of lists containing common vocabulary based on grade level.  Since it was an activity for enrichment, the words chosen were high interest and slightly above grade level.

One way to do this is to use an online word generator for word walls. Scholastic has one  here: I just found this and it is user-friendly. You can made lists of words based on subjects, alphabetical order, or even the Dolce Sight Word list! You can generate your own word list too. Just now, I made a list of words for a presentation I did for elementary children on forests. These words were what I thought would be challenging for most students. This list might be somewhat generic, depending on the student with whom you will use it.  But, the nice part of being a parent and generating a word wall list is that  you know your child better than any teacher. You are reading books together, or still helping them choose books from the library for the summer. You know their interests, you know their skill level. You can hand-pick the words that will benefit their vocabulary and their interest areas.

Another resource for finding age appropriate word lists based on topic is at vocabulary.com. This site offers several different avenues to learn words. You can play a word definition game and earn points. The game adjusts to your knowledge of words and will eventually challenge your vocabulary. There are also word lists that are generated per topic or even event (like taking the SAT). I’ll have to share this with my high school junior who will take that college entrance exam next month. This is a fun, easy, and transportable way to learn new words if you access to a computer and the internet.  You can also put in a topic to search and the site will let you know if they already have a word list generated. In the search bar I typed in The Great Gatsby and Forests (as separate searches) and both queries returned extensive word lists.

The Lexile PowerV website generates lists of vocabulary words for over 125,00 books. It can be found here: Lexile PowerV Vocabulary Tool.  The lists are ten words long that are challenging and important for the students to know while reading the story.  If you know your child’s lexile reading level, this site would be an excellent resource to match books they are interested in with increasing vocabulary.

There are other sites, too. Keep in mind that I did not use any of these internet sites when I made my word wall lists for my boys. I just tried to challenge them with words I thought they should know, like “photosynthesis” for example. Or, I paged through one of the novels they chose for summer reading and extracted words I thought would be a challenge, but again, important to the story they are reading. It doesn’t have to be fancy. You can always just search in the dictionary, as well. You, or your student,  can write words on a sheet of paper and post it where they spend a lot of time. Talk about the words on their list throughout the week. By the end of the week, if they have spent some time talking to you about the words, or even using one or two to include in a letter to grandma, your children will increase their vocabulary!  It should be painless.

And, who knows? It might also be fun!

Hospitality

Hospitality

via Daily Prompt: Hospitality

What a great day to write about hospitality! It is also Mother’s Day! Today, instead of gathering with family, we are going to a friend’s house for a college graduation celebration. It will be attended by mostly the graduate’s family members. Therefore, we are pleased to be included.  Our family celebration of Mother’s Day and other similarly oriented holidays have changed over the last twenty years, since we’ve lived in the mid-west.  Family gatherings of our own, previously attended by both my parents and in-laws, as well as our siblings is a thing of the past. Frankly, our holiday celebrations have become blunted. It is the partially the result of a husband who works holidays and various shifts due to being a health care system employee and not having family close enough to visit on the holiday – no matter what the holiday might be.  It is our fault, as much as anyone else’s, that our celebrations have become mostly private,  We all share the blame for not extending the invitation, not traveling, and not hosting.

Hospitality is something that grows when practiced. My friend is a gracious host. You always feel welcome and wanted at their home. Today will be no different. My friend has had many opportunities to practice her hospitality.  Her daughter, who we celebrate today, has spent time earning a theater degree at a local university. We’ve been pleased to attend and be entertained by her wonderful portrayal of many characters. Her mom, my friend, has gathered family and close friends for a meal prior to these performances. As I said, we’ve attended many.  It has been enjoyable to be in such hospitable and gracious company.

I remember the days of yesterday when my husband and I were hosts to family gatherings.  Both sides gathered for holiday celebrations like Christmas Eve and family picnics at our home.  I would like to think we were good hosts. Now, due to lack of practice, we probably need a little work.  My hope, on this Mother’s Day, is that my boys – now approaching young adulthood, will always know they are welcome to come home to celebrate any holiday or any day, for that matter!  I hope they will allow me the chance to practice the skill of hospitality and become good at it once again.

Inspired by: Daily Post: Hospitality

Simple Saturday – Nature in my Yard

Simple Saturday – Nature in my Yard

Today, I have a need to just post some simple photos of the evolving aspects of nature in my yard. There are reasons for this simpler post. While glancing at my social media feed this morning, I saw several articles and posts that irritated me. I do not wish to be irritated, so I will leave you with visions of happier more beautiful things that are right in my own backyard!

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Bleeding Heart

 

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Apple Buds

 

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Apple Blossoms

 

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More Apple Blossoms
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Home Fruit Orchard

 

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One of our five blueberry bushes.

 

Rose Milkweed plants behind our barn.

Seeds started by my garden club students in 2015.

We have Rose Milkweed, Swamp Milkweed, and Common Milkweed in our Yard.

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Many of the 101 new Fraser Fir Trees we had planted in our yard this spring.

Enjoy nature today & leave the annoying posts behind. We’ll all be better off.

Here’s to a Simple Saturday!

The Demise of Anticipation and Dread

The Demise of Anticipation and Dread

A post by a fellow teacher-blogger the other day reminded me of something I have been thinking about but couldn’t really put into words until after I read her post. She will be taking a National Certification Exam for Teaching soon but will not get the results until December. She was anticipating a long notification period and dreading the time spent waiting and wondering, month after month.

People, especially students, do not experience what it means to wait for results as much as we had in the past. Everything is available digitally.  Your test results are posted soon after taking a course exam, the email or snapchat you sent is viewed and replied to immediately, some standardized tests such as MAP tests (Measures of Academic Progress) allow the student to see their score instantly upon completion.

Gone are the days when you had to wait to get your report card in the mail or in person on report card day. The term or semester ends and the grades are posted online via a platform like Infinite Campus, D2L, or Blackboard. When it is the end of a semester you see what your work, or lack there of, has done to your G.P.A. and class rank immediately!  There simply is no anticipation.  And therefore, I am going to argue that the value of receiving the results of student work has been diminished by this instantaneous gratification.  There is no thrill in opening the envelope with straight A’s and showing it proudly to your parents. Likewise, there is no dread of receiving a poor grade, visible in the past from lack of digitalized results. Now, it is posted. Whether it is seen or not, by the student or parent, is up to them. I worry about what this lack of anticipation or dread, if that is the case,  has done to our students and their motivation.

I know, I know. I have read many scholarly articles and well-meaning blog posts about the fact that grades are NOT motivators for most students. I have to disagree, I have personally seen how grades can motivate.  And, even if I am wrong and grades to not motivate most students, what has happens to the significance of the end of a term grade when it is no longer celebrated upon physical receipt because it is just another entry put in the grade book by typing some keys?

Occasionally, it is not only the students who are not heeding the significance of grade reporting. Last term, one of my boys was .01 percentage points away from an A+ in one of his core high school classes. He had to ask his teacher if the grade could be bumped up the one one-hundreth of a percent so he could reap the benefits of his hard work. I would hedge a bet than if that grade had been manually written on a report card by looking at a hard copy of the grade book, he would not have had to ask.

I write from experience. The end of terms (4) or semesters (2) for my two boys still in high school come and go without any true marker anymore. Yes, there are finals. Yes, there are final grades and  subsequent “report cards”. The report card postings are not even notable. Several days, to a week after the term end, the report card is posted online, without announcement to the students or their parents. The value and significance have been taken away because we have lost the time of anticipation – of when the report card would be arriving home in the hands of your student or in the mail for you to open.

Anticipation can be a powerful force. Years ago when I learned to drive, you waited to receive the results of your driving test. Now, at least here, the student driver learns immediately whether they have passed or failed after their DMV employee ride-along.

Previously, I have held several professional licenses. A registered nursing license was granted after taking a hand-written test that was only offered a few times a year and submitted to the NCLEX Board.  You were mailed your license, if you passed. You worked on a permit until the time you were notified.  My nurse practitioner license worked much the same way when I sat for national certification as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. I took the test, waited for the results, experienced anticipation – thankfully, not dread, and hoped I had passed. Keeping my job, at the time, depended on that certification!  Nursing blogger, Marijke Vroomen-Durning, RN, pointed out in a 2010 post that new nursing grads are getting more and more impatient at having to wait several days for their board results. Several Days? How about waiting several months? Many of us did!

If one wanted to experience elation following anticipation, one worked and studied for these license or entrance exams. If you found, upon taking the exam, you had not studied enough, you experienced dread. So, I think the instantaneous or near-immediate results of exams has caused the demise of anticipation. The period of anticipation allowed one to reflect and if the results were not what was expected, perhaps that reflection would serve as insight and/or motivation into how to pass the exam in the future.

Education has changed. They way we report grades and how students and their families receive notification of the grades are far different from how they were reported a mere ten years ago. If we are going to continue to use grading systems, we need to still make the receipt of those grades significant. We cannot let anticipation and dread meet their demise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who inspired me to teach? My mom.

Who inspired me to teach? My mom.

Today, I saw a PBS Newshour article online asking the readership who inspired them to teach.  I did not have to give this much thought at all. It was my mom! My mom inspired me to teach! She taught third grade at one of our local elementary schools while I was growing up. I remember summers for her were spent either attending a grad course (mostly on making corrugated cardboard furniture for her classroom) or developing new curriculum for her students. She made entire units on high interest topical themes like Robin Hood. It was a time when teachers could be creative in their discipline.  Whole Language was the craze.  I am sure she fostered a love of reading in her students by using Amelia Bedelia stories, Scott Corbett chapter books, and Jack Prelutsky poetry. She was an awesome teacher. I know her to be strict, yet kind. Firm, yet flexible enough to allow students to grow in a way that was meaningful for them. I watched and I learned.

Over the years, I saw how some of my friends and classmates reacted to my mom as a teacher. She was loved. She was respected. She was requested by parents and families who knew their child would benefit from a year in her classroom. I was proud to be her daughter and know my friends, neighbors, and classmates were learning well from her.

Today, I hope I am the teacher of which my mom would be proud. I try to emulate her investment in students, her joy of sharing a good book, and her patience in trying to teach a new concept. I know I received my love of the written word from my mom. I have always loved words, word roots, vocabulary, and a well written story.  I owe gratitude to my mother for these traits I received directly from her. From watching, from growing, from emulating, from dreaming, I knew wanted to be a teacher. And now, I am.

Thanks, Mom.

 

Pink and more Pink.

Pink and more Pink.

via Daily Prompt: Pink

I have an affinity for the color pink. Pink petunias are a regular addition to my container gardens and plots at this time of year. Pale pink lipstick is my favorite shade to wear. Pink outfits for baby girls but not teens is a trend. Pink is a color with a story to tell or the  bow on a package you will send. The images conjured are a stand in for the color name as well.  Pink. It means a lot of things to me, read on and you will see……..

Pink: A Color Poem

Frilly, pink tutus made of tulle floating by on stage, all the while

dainty tea roses fill the air with their heavenly scent.

Fuchsia painted lips smile at me through the theater darkness as

usherettes sell sticky, sweet cotton candy in a glowing pink hue.

Pink sugar melts quickly on the changing color of my tongue, only to

be washed down with pink lemonade when the performance is done.

Pink is the sand on the famous Bermuda Beach, so soft and warm on my toes.

Pink is the sunset on the same beach at dusk, the world aglow as darkness deepens.

Pink in the palest of shades are the cherry blossoms opening in early

spring, or the raised skin where your finger touched the hot oven.

The color of a ribbon no woman wants is pink. Yet, pink is hope

for your sister and mine as we join in support to win this fight.

Pink is laughter floating freely across a crowd, contagious as the light

lacy rash on your forearm in the spring.

Pink is the rose milkweed blossom, planted behind our barn to beckon

the monarchs to stop awhile to visit on their journey South.

Pink, the color of femininity and spring, babies and tutus, bubble gum and lemonade.

Laughter in the sunsets on the pink sand beach.

Pink makes me warm, the foretelling of anger, embarrassment, or

pride. Its hue deepening with the intensity of my emotion.

Introduction Inspired by the Daily Prompt: Pink