Mr. M's Educational Adventures

A collection of ideas, thoughts and events from the wild and wacky world of teaching!

Ummm... I Think That Some Teachers Think That There Is An "I" In 'Team'


Now teachers, your next spelling word is, "TEAM."

All together now: T-I-E-I-A-I-M.

Well, not quite. Is there an easy way to tell someone that they can't spell worth a ***? Please, if there is let me know. 

I have been teaching for six years and I have yet to work with a staff that truly looks out for each other. I am the first to admit that, at times, I have negatively contributed to the lack of teamwork, but I CAN'T STAND the individual grandstanding. I find that I am surrounded by teachers who need, no CRAVE, constant validation. I have two theories on this - hear me out.

#1 - Some Teachers Just Love Themselves.
Theory Number 1 is obviously a little bit more skeptical and negative. But I think that there is some merit to it. I think that there are some people out there who just think that everything that leaves their mouths is made of gold. These are the people who claim that their poop don't stink either. I really can't handle being around this people. They do not understand the idea of being apart of a team - it's always all about them. Every new lesson that they do needs its own morning announcement, a special award and a parade. These people tend to loathe planning with their teaching partner and hoard resources and good ideas. I pity the people who have to work with these kind of people. Pity.

#2 - Administrators Don't Give Enough Kudos To Their Teachers
Theory Number 2 subscribes to the idea that it is the administrators' job to make all of their teachers feel that they are an irreplaceable member of the team - that their accomplishments are special and important to the school community. If principals were making their teachers special then maybe the grandstanding wouldn't happen in the first place. 

I think I have become pretty good at deciphering between these two types of teacher. Teacher #1 is my nemesis - I make it my mission to not acknowledge any of their accomplishments. I am not feeding into that psychosis. Teacher #2 I have some empathy for. And to the Teacher #2s out there - 

YOU ARE DOING A GREAT JOB!!!

That is all. 

I Hate Teachers Who Count Down. Period.


There is nothing that irritates me more than teachers who count down each day until the last day of school. We wonder where our students get it from! 

Now that I am just finishing my 6th year of teaching I have developed my share of teaching scars, believe me - but in no way will I turn into one of those teachers who relished the chance to sit on their arses all summer until the next lot of unlucky students enters their various classrooms. We are ALL tired. We are ALL fed up with a couple of our trouble kids. We are ALL looking forward to a break. But PLEASE save me from your daily negativity - it is dragging everyone down - including the students. 

I am dreading the last day of school - it has been a great year for me. My students are truly incredible young men and women. I never thought I would have so much respect for 14-year-olds! I don't even care that they don't do their homework regularly - I care about what they bring to the table every day - they participate vigorously and have more opinions than I can manage. I am terrified that I will never see them again. 

So, TEACHERS OF THE WORLD, if you MUST countdown, then please do it in your head and save the rest of us from your contagious negativity. 

5 Things That I LOVE About Teaching

I have decided to be positive for once on "da blog." It may not give me a ton of blog traffic, but I want to spread the love. #5: You get to learn new things! We, as teachers, are given so many opportunities to learn new techniques, explore new technologies and meet inspiring people. At what other job are you able to teach and learn every single day? #4: You get to inspire! Inspiring young people is such a MASSIVE responsibility. I take it very seriously because we are grooming the leaders of tomorrow. You can't take that too lightly. And enjoy the experience- it's an incredible feeling. #3: There are so many opportunities to try something new! Whether it be a new grade or a new crayon brand, the opportunities to keep things fresh and fantastic are endless. If you get bored in one grade? Switch to another. You get sick of the classroom? Go into admin or consultancy. #2: There is NEVER a dull moment! If you're like me, you looovvveee excitement. In the classroom, there is always someone to laugh with, something to think about or a student to "freak" on (though I don't recommend it!) You always have a story for your family or friends the second you walk in the door. #1: It is SO. MUCH. FUN! I know we tell the kids not to use the word "fun", but this job is the best and it's the only word that describes the pure joy that is teaching. There is seldom a day when I drive home in a bad mood. Those kids lift you up and put a smile on your face. Aren't we lucky?!

Is there a kind way to tell a teacher to "RETIRE ALREADY!"?

I recognize that as a young, noisy and "ADHD-like symptoms" elementary school teacher, I step on some toes from time to time. I have little patience for incompetence and rudeness and I loathe teachers who are eligible for full retirement but choose to stay on because they want to continue to torture young children.

I have met, and worked with, a variety of teachers: men, women, old, young, hip, dorky, tech-savvy, not-so-tech-savvy. But there is one type of teacher whom I cannot relate to: the way-past-my-prime teacher. Before I receive 20 angry posts from experienced teachers, let me explain that some experienced teachers (with 30+ years) are INCREDIBLE! Some of these teachers have taught me more than I could ever learn from a textbook or a seminar. The teachers whom concern me most are those teachers (with 30+ years) who maybe loved teaching in the 70's or 80's when you didn't have to earn a child's respect, but now complain non-stop about those "damn disrespectful buggers."

There have been times in the past 5 years where I need to bite my tongue so hard that I can taste it. The days when the staffroom is clouded by complaints and bitterness and voices are like nails on a chalkboard (excuse the cliche). Those are the days when I want to walk up to these "special" teachers and scream at the top of my lungs, "RETIREEEEEEEEEE!" Of course, I don't. Never. Ever. But it would feel so good. No, it would feel GREAT, INCREDIBLE, EXHILARATING! But, I can't. I would still choose not to be disrespectful to those who dedicated their lives to teaching and, maybe, at one time, they were passionate. But I am left with a dilemma:

How do you (respectfully) tell someone to contemplate retirement? Please don't tell me that it can't be done. "Can't" is a word that has never appeared in the oh-so-sacred teacher lexicon.

Young vs. Old: Does it matter?

For the first 5 years of my teaching career, I have routinely been the youngest member of the staff. This designation usually affords me some interesting perks and obvious disadvantages.

Perks:

*Everyone lives vicariously through my social life. Every night out, funny story is regularly bantered about in the staffroom.

*I am given the opportunity to attend multiple in-services, conferences and meetings where I can learn about and share cutting edge educational practices.

Disadvantages:

*I am often called upon to run numerous extra-curricular activities. Being young (and yet to start a family) it is regularly assumed that I have no life and can always take on yet another responsibility.

*More experienced teachers often look at me as a young, inexperienced and naive idiot. I find this incredibly patronizing and offensive.

The YOUNG/OLD divide is often very pronounced in schools. The staffrooms are split in half solely because of age and experience. For some ridiculous reason each group is very protective of their strengths and privately ashamed of their weaknesses. There are often exaggerated power struggles between teachers with 20+ years of experience and young go-getters whom are excited to begin their careers. These power struggles are often poorly managed by the administration because either a) the admin won't stand up to the stuck-in-their-ways experienced teachers or b) the young teachers feel as if the admin is not asserting their leadership of the school and staff.

I have become great friends with teachers of various backgrounds throughout the past five years. But I can't help but notice that experienced teachers, though we may be friends, look at me as a stupidly optimistic keener whose raison d'etre is to make them look bad.

I yearn to teach at a school where we celebrate one another's strengths instead of fearing them.

Male Elementary Teachers are Hit or Miss

This may sound overly cynical, but I am beginning to question the quality of male teachers entering elementary schools. This past year, while I taught at a K-6 school, I was the only male staff member (save for the custodian). It always bothered me that there was such a lack of balance on staff and, at times, it can be quite isolating (especially in the staffroom!) Of late, I have been yearning for a change of scenery and it had a lot to do with teaching at a school with a little more testosterone in the building. However, the more I look for a strong male role model in elementary education, the more I am disappointed.

There are approximately 15 female elementary teachers for every one male. The 7% are starting to let me down. I have found that a lot of these teachers fall into one of two categories.  

Category 1: The Future Principal: This male speciman was once an incredible elementary teacher. However, his intentions to move up the ladder were always privately clear. He has gone on to become a strong principal, at the cost unfortunately, of many young students.

Category 2: The Convenience Job: This male teacher realized that teaching is a perfect job for one with a young family. There are amazing benefits, convenient hours and lots of vacation time. While this teacher can be good at what he does, he is devoid of the passion necessary to be a great teacher.

There may be additional categories that I have missed, but those are two which come to mind at the moment.

I am still (cautiously) optimistic that I will find a male teacher whom is 100% committed to the beautiful profession that is teaching...before I, myself, fall into one of the two dreaded categories.

Archie Comics and HORRORible Recipes

A couple of things that I've tried out in summer school..

Comic books are a great way to engage young people in reading (especially boys)! I routinely have a stack of old Archie Comics on hand in my classroom as an alternative to an intimidating novel. Today, I used the Archie Comics as a means to develop a narrative piece of writing. Well, actually it was a "narrative script" if you will. First, I handed out an Archie to each student and asked them to silently read it for 15 minutes. After they had become relatively immersed in the exploits of Archie & co. I gave them a graphic organizer where they would choose two characters and compare and contrast their similarities and differences. After that was completed we discussed narrative writing and its purpose. They were then asked to form pair groups and write a 15-20 line script/dialogue that might occur between two Archie Comic characters. They practiced it and then performed. It went surprisingly well! Even the "cool" kids got into it.

Now this is one of my favourite activities (espcially if you can do it around Hallowe'en). I call it HORRORible Recipes. It is a lesson/assignment that revolves around expository/explanatory writing. First, we looked at when we would use this type of writing (instruction manual, video games, baking etc.). We proceeded to read through a couple of interesting food recipes that would get the kids salivating (desserts work well). After I was certain that the students had a firm understanding of the writing form, I explained how they were going to demonstrate expository writing. The students were asked to write a recipe for a HORROR movie! They would have to list a minimum of 10 ingredients (i.e. 10 1/2 cups of guts, 4 tablespoons of screams etc.) and then demonstrate, in writing, how to use those ingredients in their recipe. The student really sink their teeth into this activity... and it's a great way to trick them into learning ;)

Enjoy! And please give me any extension activities that might work...

Keeping Your Personal Life Out of the Classroom

I was pondering the whole notion of personal vs. professional life the other day. I find it quite bothersome when teachers bring their personal life frustrations into the classroom. I have noticed it countless times where teachers are dealing with some type of strife in their lives and choose to take it out on their innocent students who happen to be bystanders in these pathetic educator's tirades. That is precisely the reason we have sick days. It is vital that we provide a safe and encouraging environment for our students. Many of these young people deal with adversity in their home lives and it is our duty, as educators, to ensure them a positive space during the weekdays.

I think of this only because of an experience I had today when I was dealing with a difficult family issue. I was angry and frustrated and not able to take the day off, but I was blessed to have a wonderful, caring E.A. to take over for 10 minutes while I vented and took a mental break. We must support each other and lend a helping a hand when a fellow teacher needs us. That way we protect the students and provide much needed release for our colleagues.

Adventures in Summer School...

I have just started my first few days of my third year doing summer school. This session is for Grade 8 remedial English and I have a class of 16 "eager" minds. Summer school is a great opportunity to try new ideas and attempt to spark the passion for English in reluctant 14-year-olds. I always start the day with a song. I play something and the students write down all of the words that they hear in the song on a mini whiteboard. I pass out the lyric and we dissect it. The kids really get into it, especially when it's a song they recognize. I also tried a new mini project yesterday that revolved around reality television. We read a short piece of the evolution of reality-based television along with its pros and cons. The discussed the elements of a successful reality show and discussed some of their favourites. They were then split into groups and asked to come up with a new reality show along with a 30-second commercial which appealed to potential contestants. The kids really sank their teeth into it and came up with some great ideas. I think that this would be a great idea for grades 3-12 if modified.

An exciting beginning!

Welcome to the new teacher blog. A little about myself... I have taught for 4 years in Montreal and the GTA. I have a passion for everything school and I have become obsessed with my job without it taking over my life. I created this blog for 2 main reasons: 1) A way to share my ideas and thought on education. 2) To keep a record of what went well, what didn't and what I am looking forward to. I look forward to connected with lots of teachers because I am always looking for a new "IDEAS GOLD MINE!"