As I was purchasing supplies for my classroom at one of our local teacher supply stores, I couldn’t help but get a chuckle out of all the “Superhero” supplies. You can buy notepads, bulletin board headers, borders, stickers, and a million other supplies with pictures of superheroes. I love that because the superhero theme can be used as a springboard for many lessons. Kids of all ages relate to heroes and it makes for a really fun year!
It also made me think of one of my all-time heroes, my third grade teacher, Mrs. Moore. Mrs. Moore changed my entire attitude about education from a vehicle strictly for socializing with my friends to a world in which the acquisition of knowledge was not just encouraged but expected. She had a way of making learning so relevant and fun that a person couldn’t help but become engaged. I remember working for rewards as I learned my multiplication facts and I remember learning to write in cursive. I remember her patience with me when I shared everyday in “Show and Tell” for almost a month that, “Today my mom is going to have a baby” and the smile of relief on her face the day I finally reported that my baby sister (a month overdue) really had been born! Her compassion and enthusiasm shone through in everything we did that year and she made me feel like I was the most important person in the room everyday, and yet looking back, I see now that she treated every child in the room exactly the same way. There were no differences among us….not race…not gender….not socioeconomic standing…..We were all equal, and I remember thinking that I wanted to be exactly like her.
I want to be a Mrs. Moore. I want some child to someday say, “I want to be exactly like her!” But more importantly, I want some child to feel like he or she is the most important person in the room EVERYDAY!!
I have thought all day about how to write this post and still don’t know what to say. 5 Officers killed. Countless others injured. Fathers….newlyweds….rookies….experienced……no one was safe. Normally we hear stories like this and they seem far removed, things that don’t happen to us, but they’re much closer and they DO happen to us and to others like us. Violence knows no boundaries. And that’s where our present dilemma lies. How do we teach our kids that violence doesn’t solve problems; it only creates new ones. How do we make them understand that there are other ways to handle the things in our lives that eat at us? Is it even our job to teach those lessons and if so, how do we do it?
The answer is a resounding YES! We have to teach those lessons because we are in the perfect position to do so! We have students for 6-7 hours a day and we see them in all settings — at work and at play. We see them when they’re happy and we see them when they’re sad and stressed and frustrated and lonely and angry…sometimes, so so angry, and we could (if we so choose) use those situations to teach about coping, adapting, compromising, problem solving, and anger management.
But unfortunately, we don’t always use those “teaching moments” to our best advantage. We tell kids to ignore the bullies or to walk away. We tell the lonely ones to just ‘go find a new friend’ as if all they have to do is step up to a counter and order one. We react to the angry ones sometimes by getting angry ourselves, because it just becomes so tiresome to keep dealing over and over with such troubled kids. But in missing those moments, we are really missing the mark, aren’t we?
The sniper in Dallas yesterday, the shooter in Orlando in June, and countless others who have chosen violence as a means to an end were all students in someone’s class one day. They all no doubt had opportunities to make good choices as well as bad choices. They all no doubt had teachers who somehow might have been able to effect change in the way they handled the difficulties that proved one day to be too insurmountable for them. So, the question I have been asking myself all day is, how can we make a change, and where do we start?
Thought provoking question for which I have no easy answer, but you can be darn sure I will continue searching for one! We simply can’t afford to ignore this one….
As I sit here in my living room listening to the sound of bottle rockets and fireworks from the park not far from my house, I am reminded of the many people who have given so much to help build this great country. Of course, my mind wanders to the early colonials who were so courageous to have left their homelands to cross the ocean and tough it out in uncharted lands, but I also have to think about those who are in Afghanistan (and who knows where else?) today, right this very minute, all to ensure freedom for those of us who live in this melting pot we call the United States.
And while my heart is full with love for this country, I wonder if I do enough in my classroom to teach this? How do I convey patriotism? How do I teach loyalty? It comes to mind that the very best way I can teach these basic tenets of the American way of life is to model them and live them. So, yes, my class says the Pledge of Allegiance in the mornings with our hands over our hearts and our eyes gazing at the flag, and in November we will have a mock election and talk about what democracy means and how we can support that.
I am an American and though there are things about my country that make me (literally) scratch my head, I am proud to call the USA — the land of the free and the home of the brave — my home!
Do you ever get caught up in having to have the best supplies, the coolest games, the newest resources? If you’re like me, you spend hours researching the latest methods for teaching old skills, and I spend hours making things as well. But I recently learned that sometimes the easiest, spur-of-the-moment ideas can net just as good a result as the newest technology and resource!
This summer I have been tutoring kindergarten students in math, and I have been having a great time, but I am working with students who have been identified as needing some extra help. These are kids who have already been taught with the conventional resources, so I have been trying to think of new ways to present material they have already heard (but not mastered). They seem to love drawing but frankly we don’t have much time for extras like that until I had a bright idea! I got out the scrap paper and crayons and asked each of them to draw a house. I told them the house had to have a living room, a kitchen and a bedroom. Then I got out the manipulatives (little people and they each had their own handful to work with) and that’s when the fun began!
I told them to put two people in their living room and one person in the kitchen. Then I asked, “How many people in all are in your house?” They added and then they cleared their houses for the next problem. I called out another problem. They put more people in the rooms named and then they added, “How many altogether?” As I continued to call out problems, they became more and more animated about being able to figure out the total number of people in their houses. They became engaged, because I gave them ownership in their task. Their houses were nothing fancy, but they were theirs, and that created a window for learning. We played, and they learned. It was win-win!
My learning for that day: It doesn’t take fancy materials for our kids to learn. It takes ownership!