March 2009
Vol 6 No 3

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Teachers.Net Gazette Vol.6 No.3 March 2009

Cover Story by Graysen Walles
Teachers are Brave
Somewhere in this country a drive-by was avoided, a robbery was reconsidered, or a suicide attempt was abandoned because a teacher was willing to show up and make a difference in the classroom, administrative office, after school activity, or at the home of a child.

Harry & Rosemary Wong: Effective Teaching
Assessing for Student Learning

»The 21st Century Teaching-Learning Environment - (Think Outside the Classroom Box)Hal Portner
»Why Do You Teach?Sue Gruber
»Educating Homeless ChildrenLeah Davies
»Old School Progress ReportsTodd R. Nelson
»Habit vs. Awareness for the 3 Practices and for the Hierarchy of Social DevelopmentMarvin Marshall
»The Busy Educator's Monthly FiveMarjan Glavac
»Dear Barbara - Advice for SubsBarbara Pressman
»Global Travel GuruJosette Bonafino
»Tool & ToysRick Morris

»Economic Relief for TeachersTeachers.Net
»Fifty Years of TeachingBill Page
»Strange SignsTim Newlin
»A Dozen Surefire Tips To Maximize Flexible Grouping and Small Group LearningSusan Fitzell
»Time to Reward YourselfAlan Haskvitz
»March 2009 Writing PromptsJames Wayne
»Using Photographs To Inspire Writing VHank Kellner
»What’s Wrong With Teacher Education In This Country?Howard Seeman
»“Slumdog Millionaire” Teaches About Education, TooDorothy Rich
»Teachers’ Role in Improving Students’ Thinking Skills: Moving beyond the ‘sage on the stage’Ambreen Ahmed

»Apple Seeds: Inspiring QuotesBarb Stutesman
»Today Is... Daily CommemorationRon Victoria
»The Lighter Side of Teaching
»Teacher Blogs Showcase
»Liz Phillips' Printable Discipline Rubric
»Photo tour: 4th Grade Classroom
»Lessons, Resources and Theme Activities: March 2009
»Featured Lesson: Recognizing Bullying
»Modeling Guided Reading FAQ, Periodic Table of Videos – Fascinating Chemistry!, Carl Sagan - 4th Dimension Explanation, Parabolas in the Real World, Al Jolson sings - Brother Can You Spare a Dime?, Lovers’ Waltz - Casey Willis on violin, Meet Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
»Live on Teachers.Net: March 2009
»T-Netters Share Favorite Recipes
»Managing Hyperactive Students
»Newsdesk: Events & Opportunities for Teachers
»This Board’s For Me!


The Teachers.Net Gazette is a collaborative project
published by the Teachers.Net community
Editor in Chief: Kathleen Alape Carpenter
Layout Editor: Mary Miehl

Cover Story by Graysen Walles

Effective Teaching by Harry & Rosemary Wong

Contributors this month: Graysen Walles, Hal Portner, Sue Gruber, Leah Davies, Todd R. Nelson, Marvin Marshall, Marjan Glavac, Barbara Pressman, Josette Bonafino, Rick Morris, Bill Page, Tim Newlin, Susan Fitzell, Alan Haskvitz, James Wayne, Hank Kellner, Howard Seeman, Dorothy Rich, Ambreen Ahmed, Barb Stutesman, Ron Victoria, Liz Phillips, and YENDOR.

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Bill Page

Good Teachers
Archive | Biography | Resources | Discussion

Fifty Years of Teaching

By the time building administrators realized I was not following policy, my students were learning, successful, happy, and thriving.
by Bill Page
Regular contributor to the Gazette
March 1, 2009

A teaching aphorism declares: “You can have 20 years of experience or you can have one year’s experience 20 times.” I’ve had fifty years experiences teaching in elementary and secondary schools, in colleges, in radical, innovative schools, in bureaucratic nightmares, in elite academies and ghetto schools. A half-century has whooshed by since my first day of teaching, September 9, 1958. This year I will turn 77 years old and have begun writing “My Memoirs”, not because I am famous or even notorious, but because of implausible, my one-of-a-kind, experiences in unique and extraordinary contexts. I am eager to share my once-in-a-lifetime valuable lessons that others may compare, contrast, or reflect on their own experiences. Here are some notes from my event-filled journey:

Totally unprepared to teach, 27 years old, and with no interest or experience whatsoever, I reluctantly accepted a stopgap job as an eighth grade English teacher. I didn’t know anything about teaching, and I had a lousy attitude, “If I don’t like teaching, I’ll quit, whether that’s at the end of the first day or first week.” Furthermore, I didn’t like kids. I didn’t dislike them either–I just didn’t know what they were, what they were like, and had no interest in them. To my delight, I loved the job and got a kick out of the kids. They were funny, and I laughed at them instead of yelling and griping as some of my fellow teachers did.

Striving day-by-day as a new teacher, I suffered asinine school policies, contradictory directives from administrators and useless advice from colleagues. The prevalent teaching-learning concept was based on fear, intimidation, reward and punishment, negativism, and ordinate-subordinate relationships. Many teachers seemed angry at the kids and obsessed with control. I found teaching expectations so contrary to my own goals, I became perplexed and disillusioned. Unlike my schooling experiences where boredom and fear of failure ruled, I wanted interest and satisfaction for my students. What I was supposed to do as a teacher had no connection to what made sense. I quickly developed a teaching mantra, “I will do what makes sense.”

Still “just a teacher” after fifty years, I am delighted to share my successful teaching strategies. (I shall share my many unsuccessful techniques another time.) However devious, unorthodox, unheralded, and sometimes unprofessional or unethical my teaching-learning methods, they are all researched, tested, and proven—by me. Besides my guiding mantra and the abundance of constant, honest, and innocent feedback from my students, I can attribute my different-but-successful teaching to four factors:

  1. My success. By the time building administrators realized I was not following policy, my students were learning, successful, happy, and thriving.
  2. My kids learned. I did not have discipline or class management problems. I did not kick kids out or flunk them. I taught them.
  3. My kid’s parents didn’t complain. If kids are happy; parents are happy. I have had parents (including the principal’s wife), begging to get their kids in my classes.
  4. My commitment to the efficacy of my teaching was unyielding. I had fervent convictions and unwavering beliefs in the face of the school’s imposed, and ineffective, traditional requirements.

With my naïve, stubborn, iconoclastic procedures, I was a long way from traditional teaching expectations. Administrators encountered difficulty dealing with me. One principal wrote in my file, “He has the courage of his convictions;” intending it as a derogatory entry. By specializing in teaching “troublemakers”, who had already failed standard school procedures, I “got away with” some circuitous methods. Having more success with the problem learners than some teachers were having with the good kids got me even more problem kids and prevented me from quitting or being fired. Here are strategies I developed that permitted me to continue my unorthodox, expedient procedures that made sense and brought success.

  • Out-bureaucrating the bureaucrats
  • Covering my posterior
  • Avoiding faculty gossips
  • Ignoring administrative memos
  • Using student feedback
  • Begging forgiveness
  • Finding “wiggle” room
  • Never asking permission

I acquired expedient teaching strategies through:

  • Painful self-reflection
  • Honest self-talk
  • Lots of trial-and-error
  • Plagiarized ideas
  • Adapted and adopted lessons
  • Ploys, plots, and stratagems
  • More feedback than I ever wanted
  • Student participation
  • Willingness to take a stand

I endured and exploited lessons of:

    *Desperation and panic

  • Rationalization and defensiveness
  • Deliberate forgetfulness and avoidance
  • Naivety and ignorance
  • Incidental and accidental occurrences

Through these procedures, I learned to be a successful, satisfied teacher of successful, satisfied students.

Article continued on next page

» More Gazette articles...

About Bill Page ...

Bill Page, a farm boy, graduated from a one-room school. He forged a career in the classroom teaching middle school “troublemakers.” For the past 26 years, in addition to his classroom duties, he has taught teachers across the nation to teach the lowest achieving students successfully with his proven premise, “Failure is the choice and fault of schools, not the students.”

Bill Page is a classroom teacher. For 46 years, he has patrolled the halls, responded to the bells, and struggled with innovations. He has had his share of lunchroom duty, bus duty, and playground duty. For the past four years, Bill, who is now in his 50th year as a teacher, is also a full time writer. His book, At-Risk Students is available on Abebooks, Amazon, R.D. Dunn Publishing, and on Bill’s web site:

In At-Risk Students, Page discusses problems facing failing students, “who can’t, don’t and won’t learn or cooperate.” “The solution,” he states, “is for teachers to recognize and accept student misbehavior as defense mechanisms used to hide embarrassment and incompetence, and to deal with causes rather than symptoms. By entering into a democratic, participatory relationship, where students assume responsibility for their own learning.” Through 30 vignettes, the book helps teachers see failing students through his eyes as a fellow teacher, whose classroom success with at-risk students made him a premier teacher-speaker in school districts across America.

Bill Page Articles on Teachers.Net...

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