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June 2008
Vol 5 No 6
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Teachers.Net Gazette Vol.5 No.6 June 2008

Cover Story by Alfie Kohn
Atrocious Advice from "Supernanny"
Behaviorism is as American as rewarding children with apple pie… but for how long does it work, and at what cost?


Harry & Rosemary Wong: Effective Teaching
Eight Year Summary of Articles, 2000 to 2008

Columns
VisualizationMarvin Marshall
Textmapping: Where Old Becomes NewCheryl Sigmon
Administrative BroadwayTodd R. Nelson
The Busy Educator's Monthly FiveMarjan Glavac
Easy Ideas to Wrap up the YearSue Gruber
Committees: Make Them More ProductiveHal Portner
Helping Children Cope After DisasterLeah Davies

Articles
The Dance of the Honeybee
June 2008 Writing Prompts
Your School's Mission in a Sound Bite
The Medicalizing of Education
I Used to Educate Students; Now I Prepare Them… for The Test
A Great Model Of Differentiation
Live Chat with Adora Svitak
Making the Most of Summer To Prepare for the New School Year

Features
Printable Worksheets & Teaching Aids
Candles of Inspiration: June 2008
Teachers.Net Craft Favorite: Father's Day Project
Featured Lessons, Resources and Theme Activities: June 2008
Video Bytes: The human cost of war, in song, Literacy centers and more...
Today Is... Daily Commemoration for June 2008
Live on Teachers.Net: June 2008
The Lighter Side of Teaching
Apple Seeds: Inspiring Quotes for Teachers
What are some things you absolutely DO NOT miss about teaching?
How Many Years Did It Take You to Get It Together?
Newsdesk: Events & Opportunities for Teachers


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Cover Story by Alfie Kohn

Effective Teaching by Harry & Rosemary Wong

Contributors this month: Marvin Marshall,Cheryl Sigmon, Marjan Glavac, Todd R. Nelson, Hal Portner, Leah Davies,Tim Newlin, James Wayne, James Burns, Alan Haskvitz, Bill Page, Barb Stutesman, Ron Victoria, and YENDOR.

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Collective Wisdom

Teachers.Net Community


How Many Years Did It Take You to Get It Together?

New teachers often wonder whether they'll ever "get it together." Here's what veteran educators said when asked, "How many years did it take before you felt you really came into your own as a teacher?"
Teachers.Net Community
Regular Feature in the Gazette
June 1, 2008

On the Upper Elementary Teachers Chatboard teachers.net/mentors/upper_elementary
“whirlwing” asked:

How many years did it take before you felt you really came into your own as a teacher? I'm in my third year. Because of unusual circumstances, I have had a different position each year, so in a sense it's like I'm on my third "first year" in a row. I feel that eventually I will reach my potential as a teacher and be excellent, but I'll tell you, it ain't happenin' yet! Realistically, I'd say I'm average at this point. I'm still swamped with work and stress, though I have moments of…I won't call it greatness, but perhaps "very goodness" can be considered a word. I also fall on my face frequently, but for the most part, I get back up again.

I've always had people (kids, building subs, etc.) wander into my class because they want to be part of the interesting things going on. So help me out here. I want to know where I am in relation to other people. How long did it take before you felt like you were really you in the classroom?

Within minutes, teaching peers from far and wide responded with insight, wisdom and reassurance…

Posted by Selena/4th (who also taught 2nd and 5th)

I've been teaching for over 6 years. There are times when I am very comfortable with what I am teaching and think, "Wow, I really am a teacher!" Other times, I still feel like I don't have any idea what I am doing. There are always so many changes that it can feel like that from time to time, but those times are getting fewer and far between. (It also helps when you finally settle in one grade for more than a year at a time!)

There are times when I am very comfortable with what I am teaching and think, "Wow, I really am a teacher!"

Posted by JJ

I've also been moved around a lot and most of the time feel like I have it down (5th year) but there are times when I'm thinking "Oh boy! This is gonna fall flat on its face!" It doesn't happen a lot, but when it starts to happen at least I can recognize it and stop it sooner!

Posted by Cathy in NC

I can honestly say that it took anywhere from five to six years of teaching before I felt like I really knew what I was doing.

I started off in third and was there for four years. By the time I felt really comfortable with third grade curriculum, I had an opportunity to move to fifth. Knowing that the chance was not going to come again for some time, I decided to move to fifth. That first year in fifth was almost like my first year of teaching all over again. What works for third graders doesn't always work for fifth graders.

I taught fifth for three years and after my first year in fifth I felt really good about things. Last June, my husband and I moved from Michigan to North Carolina and I had another opportunity to change grades. I am now teaching fourth and love it. I honestly feel that teaching both third and fifth has paved the way for my success this year.

Any time you change grades it's a hard transition and it makes for a more challenging year (getting to know the curriculum and parent/student needs).

However, now that I have eight years under my belt, I feel really confident. I still try new things and I'm always looking to improve how I do things. I love hearing new ideas for making my job easier.

Good luck and stay strong. Your "magic" year will arrive eventually!!

Now that I have eight years under my belt, I feel really confident.

Posted by T/5

I've been in a classroom for 10 years now - I did 6 years then worked in the computer lab for 6 years and now I have been back in the classroom for 4 years.

My opinion is that every year teaching has gotten easier. Every year I had more to pull from. Every year I have had better ideas to use for content and management. I think I have been a better teacher each year.

However, I still find that the difference between being a good teacher and being a great teacher is huge. I am sorry to say I don't always have the time to be a great all the time.

Another problem that I've encountered is each year has different clients. Demanding students and parents wear me down and, unfortunately, the time I spend with them has to come from somewhere.

I still find that the difference between being a good teacher and being a great teacher is huge. I am sorry to say I don't always have the time to be a great all the time.

Posted by Anni/5th

I can honestly say after 7 years I STILL don't feel I am together. I wonder daily if this is the career for me!

I taught 4th for a year and was transferred to another school where I taught 4th for a year where everything was completely hectic and different from the first school. Then I got married and was switched to 3rd. This was also the year I was very busy with the wedding and my mother was diagnosed with MS and had a lot of medical issues and moved in w/ me!

My second year teaching 3rd was ok, but out of my 24 kids, 16 had some sort of special need and I rarely got aid time at all. My husband and I moved and now I have been teaching 5th for 3 years. I like 5th but it is very intense and my kids always seem "too cool for school." I still have problems with management. I am at the point where I am considering another profession. I figure if I can't seem to hack it after 7 years, it's time to move on to something else... aside from which, I really want to be a SAHM, and my husband and I are trying to conceive. I am hoping not to be teaching next year.

…after 7 years I STILL don't feel I am together. I wonder daily if this is the career for me!

Posted by Rosie

I have taught for six years now, the first two in fourth and the last four in third. The first year was pure hell. I moved 500 miles away from home, and left my oldest two there (they were 18 and 21 at the time). My husband and youngest son made the trip to NC with me. We didn't know anyone, and in hindsight I must have been crazy! I was 39 and had never worked before, and had just graduated with my degree in elementary education. I moved to NC, and was I in culture shock!

There are days when I fantasize about teaching at the college level. If you misbehave I can just kick you out and don't need to call your mama!

After my third year I seemed to gain a little confidence. I had a horrible class last year, but this year's class has been a dream. I have the gifted cluster class and it makes such a huge difference as far as behaviors.

My biggest issue was classroom management my first couple of years. But I think I have a good handle on that now. My entire grade level uses the same system and consistency really helps.

There are days when I really wonder what I was thinking but they are usually when adults have annoyed me as opposed to the kids. I love third graders. They still like school, and want to please the teacher. They still trust you and consider you an important part of their life.

I am not sure what else I would do, but there are days when I fantasize about teaching at the college level. If you misbehave I can just kick you out and don't need to call your mama!

Posted by Stephanie

I am in my 9th year. I did 8 in Kinder and 1st, but this year, due to some unusual circumstances I won't bore you with, I am teaching 4th. WOW! What a shock I had! I feel like such a fish out of water!! After so much time with the little ones, I feel like I'm learning how to teach all over again!

BUT, I will also tell you that even last year, when I was still teaching Kinder, although I felt comfortable with what I was expected to do, I never felt like I had "mastered" it. I was always looking for a better way to do things, a way to improve what I was already doing, or a workshop to go to for new ideas. In my opinion, the day that I feel like I have "mastered" teaching and have gotten as good as you can get, is the day I need to resign! I don't EVER want to be that teacher who pulls out her lesson plan book from 17 years ago, blows the dust off of it, and makes copies to use again! Kids are constantly changing, and new research is being published almost daily. But, that's what keeps me interested and excited!

The day that I feel like I have "mastered" teaching and have gotten as good as you can get, is the day I need to resign!

Posted by Sam5

I have taught for 25 years. I feel that at year three you should know if teaching is the job for you or not. At year five in the same position you should feel somewhat "on top of things." Not that you won't change things - classes are different, programs will change, textbooks will change - but at least in a pinch, you can pull out something you have done before. I find that by year eight in the same position, I start to get bored. I have switched positions four times, sometimes by choice and sometimes because of outside circumstances.

It took me ten years to become that inspirational teacher I wanted to be, not that there aren't good and bad days, there are, but overall I feel I am making a difference in kids' lives.

I think that we feel this way because as teachers we are the "life long learner" and always want to be better at what we do.

Posted by Beverly

I think that we feel this way because as teachers we are the "life long learner" and always want to be better at what we do. We know that our job is so important that we really want to be "the BEST". Well at least that's how I feel.

I taught 5th grade my first year, switched down to 3rd for 2 years, then decided I needed to change schools and got a 2nd grade position, this is my 4th year there. Now my admin wants to know when I'm going to want to come out of the classroom to do trainings for teachers or move on to another position in the county. I told them this is the 1st year in 7 years that I've had a class that I haven't had to worry about so and so going off the deep end. I'm really enjoying teaching this year. I've had my fair share of behavioral and emotional kids every year. This year I somehow got lucky. So I feel relieved that I can actually teach. I've done some training and mentoring outside my school but right now can't imagine not having a class of my own. There are days that I don't always like them and what they are doing, but I do love them and enjoy the whole teaching aspect.

Each year that I changed felt like another 1st year but wasn't quite as extreme as my very 1st year. I'd like to think that I have it together. I've been told that I'm a good teacher and had people ask to come observe because of a program I was part of. But I still feel like there are days where I just don't have it together as well as I would like!

I guess it's all a matter of perspective and expectations of our selves and from those around us. Anyway...just my little tidbit about having it all together! :)

It took me ten years to become that inspirational teacher I wanted to be, not that there aren't good and bad days, there are, but overall I feel I am making a difference in kids' lives.

Posted by hang in there!

My third year was a watershed year for me. I was teaching 6th for the third time and it just clicked. The kids were not any major headaches, we still got to be creative at that time and the classroom just felt like it hummed. Then the next year came and threw all that out the window. Now, after 17 years, I have another of those humming classes that took half the year to get really going. In all of that time, there have been ups and downs. I'm sure I was harder on myself than I really needed to be. I wasted a lot of time worrying about if I was having enough fun in my job in relation to all the stories I'd heard. Anyway, continue to be yourself, roll with the never-ending punches and remind yourself to enjoy every minute of it whether or not it is "good" by any definition.

The singular event that changed my teaching experience was when I had children of my own! Honestly, up until then I had that feeling that parents were the enemy.

Posted by Teacher

Looks like we've all had varied experiences and handled them as need be. I've been teaching about 20 years. I would just add that the singular event that changed my teaching experience was when I had children of my own! Honestly, up until then I had that feeling that parents were the enemy. I was young and very sensitive so I'd die a little with every criticism.

Once I had my own children I realized what was motivating those parents! When "Johnny" made a low grade, it was their low grade. They were taking everything that happened at school and feeling graded as a parent by me! Once I had some time on the job of parenting having stayed at home for 6+ years, I returned to the classroom seeing through new eyes. I try early on to set into motion the idea that we are working with each other as a team in behalf of their child. There are still people who will cause my hackles to go up, but for the most part they all know I truly care about their child and want every one of them to succeed.

That being said, you should find your "niche" classroom level. I started in 1st. and loved it, but it is very physically demanding. 3rd. is fun, but my favorite is 4th. As for lesson plans, I throw them out every year. Each group is new and while I have a framework of what I need to teach, how I teach is dependent on the needs of the children who come into my room.

I love getting new ideas and weaving them into previously successful plans. This board has long been a source of new ideas for me.

I love getting new ideas and weaving them into previously successful plans. This board has long been a source of new ideas for me.

Posted by Bill

While I'll never have it together, switching from secondary to elementary has certainly pointed me in the right direction. After many years in a high school (and a brief two-year stint as a middle school Title I teacher), I recently switched to teaching nine elementary-aged kids in a one-room setting. I enjoy it immensely, and I'm becoming quite fond of playing zombie ball freeze-tag.



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