Online Writing for Students

My school district has been focusing on writing the last couple years. We have gone to a writing conference and have been sharing our classroom writing activities every week. The school wants more though.

The other day, we were given a goal that we must write online with our students once a month. That includes all regular teachers as well as PE and music. And absolutely no one is thrilled. At first, when I heard about the new goal, I thought that meant having the students write blogs. That was the only online writing I could think of and I was not happy. My third and fourth graders have a hard time using a username and password. I knew that if I created a school safe blog for my students, they would need a lot of help. Plus, I really am not comfortable with young kids writing blogs.

However, one of the teachers in charge said that online writing could be as simple as having the students type their spelling words. That I could probably handle. I am still not pleased though. What is wrong with writing their spelling words by hand? That is how they are going to take the test. Besides, it takes forever for my students to type. We do type our formal writing projects and even though they get typing instruction once a week, they still have to hunt and peck. Sure, I know typing is what students will eventually strive for. They have years to practice though.

And, what about kindergarten? The kindergarten teacher was told that she could have her students put pictures from stories in order but that is not writing. And what about music and PE? If the kids have to start writing instead of moving in PE, they will not want to go. And that is not the purpose of PE. The purpose is to get kids moving.

I have trouble seeing how writing online is going to benefit the students and help them become better writers. Especially if all they are going to be doing is typing their spelling words.



Going Back to School

I have been out of school since December of 2012. Even though my teaching certificate does not expire until 2017, I knew that I needed to get going and take a class to renew my teaching certificate. Some people suggested that I take summer classes but I knew that would not work for me. During the summer I have my amusement park job. And I am not giving that up for anything. That job is what has kept me living when the depression got tough. Knowing that I would one day return to my job kept me going.

I looked into different endorsements and master classes but could not decide what to do. I really did not want to go back to school. Last time I was in school, I was so severely depressed that I wanted to kill myself. That was at the time that I became a cutter.

I knew that I would not be able to handle going back to school and working at the same time. I could not handle it in college and knew that I would not be able to handle it now. That is when I read about self-paced classes. I did the research and decided that I could probably handle a self-paced class. I could work when I had free time and not really have any deadlines.

The other night, I did some thinking about my self-paced class. I was kind of looking down at myself. I graduated as valedictorian in high school. In college, I graduated summa cum laude and gave the commencement address. And here I was, not going for my masters. People might look down at me too, but I know why I am doing it. I am taking a self-paced class because that is all my mental health will allow. And isn’t a self-paced class and life better than a masters, suicide, and cutting?

Sympathy Doesn’t Help Me

This last year, I have gotten a lot of sympathy from people that feel sorry for me since I have such a rough group of students. The sympathy has always bothered me; especially when it comes from parents who I feel could do more to make my job easier. I do not enjoy any of the sympathy though because it still does not change the fact that I have a difficult group of students.

I went home this weekend and took off tomorrow because I am having such a rough time (most of my mental health problems I have dealt with this last year are probably mostly rooted to my classroom). I am just not sure if I can make it the next three weeks so I decided to make it just a tiny bit easier and put my students’ behavior problems in someone else’s hands.

This morning at church, I got a lot of sympathy from people who seemed to know about my students. I guess my mom has been talking. Again, the sympathy bothered me even though these people cannot do anything about my problems. Their sympathy brought tears to my eyes though and I found myself fighting to hide the tears.

Despite having tomorrow off, I still cannot help thinking about the next three weeks. My students are getting worse by the day and I am just tired of dealing with it. And despite having tomorrow off, I am still not sure if I can make it.

I am just tired of the sympathy. I want some real help.

I Hate Subbing 2

Ever since I learned that I have a teaching job for next fall, I have gotten very bad about turning down sub jobs. I have always hated subbing but I have rarely turned down a sub job because I needed the money. Plus, I wanted to make a good impression in case one of the schools was hiring. But now, I have turned down so many jobs in the last few weeks.

One week, my aunt was coming so I turned down a job so that I could see her. That same week, I turned down another job because my mom had decided to go to the city to do some shopping. Even though I did not need anything, I had still planned on going. And since the call for the job came after the school day had already started, I already had my hopes set on going shopping.

This week, my least favorite school called one morning. I turned down the job because I do not like the school (it is really big and kind of far away). Rather than face the really bad anxiety that comes with jobs for that school, I turned the job down.

The same school called last night. I let it ring in my hand. I did listen to the voicemail, but I did not respond.

I know I am being really rude to that school. The only reason I sub there is because someone told me that I would get a lot of jobs. At the time, I was not getting very many jobs at the three schools I was at so I decided to add one more. I really have not gotten that many jobs from that school, which has made me grateful in the long run. Like I said, the school is kind of big and farther than I want to drive. I was also hoping that by subbing at this school, it might increase my chances of getting hired.

I have a feeling that the school will call me again tonight because the job is for a future date. I really want to tell her that I no longer want to sub at that school. But does that sound really funny when it is April and the school year is almost over?

I hate subbing so much. I only have five more weeks of subbing but it is going way too slow.

I Hate Subbing

I am a substitute teacher but not by choice. And I absolutely hate it. I absolutely dread schools calling for subs. I often pray that I will not have to sub several days a week.

No student likes subs. I did not like subs when I was in school either. Subs do not know the rules and procedures in the classroom. There is always at least one student that likes to say how things are done. I even had a student get after me for telling the class to go take a restroom break after recess.

Subbing is very unpredictable. Calls can come in early in the early morning or right before school starts. Sometimes, calls can even come in throughout the day. It makes it very hard to plan your day when you have no idea when the phone will ring.

Students often do not behave for subs. They think they can get away with more because the sub does not know the rules.

Subs also have no idea what the day will be like when they walk into an unfamiliar classroom. Some classes are better than others and the students are better behaved. Other classes are nightmares. Plus, some teachers leave really good lesson plans and other teachers leave very little or confusing lesson plans.

Subbing is absolutely horrible. There are some people that think I purposely choose to sub rather than teach full time. I think very few people would choose subbing. All subs have their reasons: Family, retired, or looking for a job.

I Got Hired!

Fourteen months after graduating college, I have been offered a teaching job for the next school year. With the offer has come a lot of powerful emotions and feelings. With the offer has also come some mixed feelings.

I do not know how many times over the last fourteen months I have been close to giving up on teaching. There was one time I was so angry that I applied at a minimum wage job. I was ready to give up on everything. A few days later, I calmed down and retracted the application. But there were several other times when I got online and just looked for jobs outside of teaching because I wanted a real job.

There were several times that I thought about going back to school and getting a different degree because I did not believe that I would ever get a teaching job. I did not want to go back to school though. I just wanted a job.

I filled out countless job applications every week and I often wondered what the point was. It has been extremely difficult this year because I remember filling out applications for the same schools last year and never getting even an interview. I filled them out though because I knew that I would never get a job without them.

I almost did not want to go on the interview this week because it was a long ways away and I did not want to drive that far away to be rejected. I have done all that before. But then I ended up getting the job.

Getting the job has been a huge relief. I now can stop worrying that I will spend forever living with my parents or subbing for the rest of my life. I can stop filling out applications. At the same time though, I cannot help but feel bad for the applicants that did not get the job. I know what it is like to get the rejection letters without even getting an interview. I know what it is like to go on an interview and then get the rejection over the phone.

There have been times when I have thought about what I would do once I learned about getting a teaching job. But as time went on, I thought about it less and less. All I really thought about was the day that I could clean out my application folder and delete files on my computer. I also thought about the school application website where I could push the button saying that I have been hired. Now that I have done all that though, it is now time to think about my classroom. And that is a good thing.

Classroom Managment

As a substitute teacher, I get to see a lot of classrooms. Some classrooms are better than others but I am still getting a general idea that classroom management is lacking for a majority of teachers. At first, I just established it to certain teachers or the fact that I am a young, new sub. But I think as a whole, students are getting away with everything. Students know that their teacher really cannot do anything so they choose to do horrible things and are disrespectful and do not do their work. I am going to talk about some classroom management ideas I have experienced or implemented.

I have seen several classrooms that use the clothespin chart. I really do not like it. Every student has a clothespin that starts in the middle of a chart. If the student does something good, their clothespin moves up the chart. If the student has bad behavior, the clothespin is moved down a level. There is supposed to be a consequence at each level but I doubt the teacher sends the child to the principal every time they reach that level or calls home. The students know that and figure that they can continue their bad behavior.

Taking away recess is common for a lot of classrooms. Some classrooms take away recess from the whole class and others take it away on an individual basis. I prefer the individual basis. One time, I was in a classroom where the teacher took away five minutes of recess from the entire class and then kept adding minutes. She did this every day and it was obvious that it didn’t work. I almost wished she would do something else.

One thing I did during my student teaching was re-teaches. Students that were misbehaving were given invitations to stay in at recess to practice the correct behavior. It only took a few minutes but they hated it because they were old enough to know how to raise their hand or walk in the hall. I didn’t have to issue very many invitations.

Another thing I have done before is play Student vs. Teacher. Whenever a student does something good, the students get a point. If someone does something inappropriate, the teacher gets a point. This worked for a short time in a classroom I was in. But in another classroom, the teachers were told to always make sure the students won. There was also no incentive for winning so it really didn’t do anything.

There is a serious issue with a lot of students today. They do not behave, do not do their work, or are very disrespectful. Every classroom management plan is unique and won’t work for all students but every teacher needs to find one that works for them and their classroom.

Ability Grouping

I have done some subbing in sixth grade (middle school) recently. I wasn’t there for very long when I started to get the idea that the different classes were grouped according to their ability. I was shocked because as a teacher, I have grouped students according to pretest scores but I usually only do it for reading and math and the groups change frequently based on what the students need to work on. I was shocked that these students were grouped for all subjects.

            There are positives to ability grouping. Students don’t have to wait or rush because they are at the same level as the rest of the group. They can also get more or less help from the teacher, depending on their needs. Finally, there is no boredom.

            There are also some negatives to ability grouping too. Sometimes, students get stuck in one group and this can create labels (nerds or dumb). Ability grouping also means more work for the teacher.

            As a former student, I think that students need to be mixed up occasionally. There are times when it is nice to teach groups because then almost all the students are on the same level. But at the same time, students need to have the opportunity to work with different students and learn from each other. I know when I was in school, I used to hate working with some students because I found them to be very slow. But the world isn’t divided into ability groups. Students need to be able to work with everyone.

            There are positives and negatives to ability grouping. It should have its place in the classroom, but shouldn’t be used all the time because students need to learn and work with all students, not just a certain group.