June 30, 2015

Getting Parents on Your Side EARLY!

I always prided myself on the fact that I always had an excellent rapport with all my parents. I have been out of the classroom for the last 8 years as a Reading Specialist.  I miss that contact with parents.  I think my ability to relate to them on many levels was key despite the fact I do not have children of my own.

So how do you get them on your side?  I always started before the year was underway by writing a letter to every student in my upcoming class.  I would share what I did over the summer and how excited I was that they were in my class.  I always gave some personal information, like that I had a dog.  By the time Open House or Meet Your Teacher day came they already felt like they knew me!

During Open House I made sure to greet every child and his/her parent/caregiver and worked hard to remember one thing about each of them.  I always took photos of every kid to use throughout the year.
I tried to include parents in all celebrations at school, like Authors Celebrations or reading events.
One thing that I loved doing and so did the parents was my Current Events Cafe!  Once a month I invited parents in 30 minutes before the school day started to read informational material with their child.  I provided coffee, juice and donuts.  I played jazz music in the background and have checkered tablecloths on all the "tables" (desks that were clustered together!) .  I provided all the non fiction material and equipped parents with task cards to guide their reading and discussion with their child.  Shortly after I started this parents began to volunteer to bring in the coffee other delectables!

All you need is right here.  You just need to supply the magazines, newspapers or other non-fiction material.
                                     Non-Fiction Cafe  

Another thing I liked to do to get parents involved was the Mystery Reader program.  Lots of schools do it and it is very successful.  In addition to parents, I always incorporated key people in the school to be a part of it;  principal, nurse, counselor, secretaries, building service workers!  It is a very motivating program and it helps to start off the year on the right foot!

Mystery Reader Program

Velcro...A Teacher's Little Helper!

It's an odd thing, Velcro, that is.  I have to admit I used it like wildfire when I was in the classroom.  I attached Velcro to pencils and then to kids' desks. I used it on the backs of name tags so I could just move the name tag and not the desk!  It is genius!  I often wondered who invented it and why.  Well, here is the short answer taken from a Google search.

Who invented Velcro®?
The Velcro ® brand of hook and loop was invented by a man named George de Mestral in the 1940's while hunting in the Jura mountains in Switzerland. Mr. de Mestral, a Swiss engineer, realized that the tiny hooks of the cockle-burs were stuck on his pants and in his dog's fur and wondered how they attached themselves. Under the scrutiny of the microscope, he observed the hooks engaging the loops in the fabric of his pants. 

Truly man's best friend, the dog, that is!  Ever wonder how it got it's name?  Read on friends...
Where did the word "Velcro" come from?
De Mestral, along with help from friends in the weaving business, finally duplicated mother natures hook and loop fastener in the manufacturing plant. The result of his new invention was Velcro ® brand fasteners, from the French words for velvet "velour", and hook, "crochet".
Interesting...Why can't I think of something like that?  Velcro has definitely change the world for the better and especially if you are a teacher!

June 13, 2015

The end of the school year as a teacher is filled with mixed emotions. Joyous about the fact that there is an end of a year and sad as kids you have become attached to for 10 months are leaving you!  For me, it presents different emotions.  Time to purge stuff I haven't looked at all year and a time to reflect.  I always think about what I would have done differently and what will be different next year.  What will I really focus on during the summer?
Yesterday was the last full day of school.  We have to make up one due to snow from last winter.  The day was filled with fifth graders wandering around getting signatures for their yearbooks.  One kid came by my office for a signature and I asked him if he was happy school was ending and if he was excited for middle school.  A resounding "NO!" was his response.  He went onto say that he and the school were like the north and south pole, attracted to each other.  I have never heard a child explain it like that!  He said, "I am attached to this place.  I've been here for 6 years!". Ah, the effects that we have on kids are tremendously powerful.
I think about "Opening Day" and how everything was so fresh and new you could smell those new crayons and supplies throughout the building and the bulletin boards beamed with messages of "It's Going To Be A Great Year!" and all the students' names on different figures representing some sort of theme! But now the bulletin boards are bare, trash cans overflowing with butcher paper, old border and lots of remnants of desks emptied out.  It's sad...
But as educators, we get "do-overs"!  I love that about my job!  We can compartmentalize years and get a clean slate every August!!  We have beginnings and ends and a chance to do it better next year!
A word about summer to those who think we just sit around drinking cocktails, living the life..it's the really great teachers that continue to grow during our summers "off" by taking classes and honing our craft so that we will hit the ground running when we open our doors for business in August!  Here's to all the great teachers! Enjoy your summer and keep learning!