Personal Success · writers · writing

15 Down, 45 to Go

student paper

It’s that time again: Fifth graders write a research paper on a famous scientist/athlete/politician/artist. They will dress up as the celebrity and give a 30-60 second speech in first person.

Grading the papers can bring tears of joy or sadness.

It’s akin to the feeling when a student gives you an end-of-year gift with the message of thanks:

You are my favrit teacher.

Or,

You are grate.

 

 

 

Arizona · education · Health · Personal Success

Why I Became a Teacher

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Joe Shillington

When I was eight years old, my teacher, Ms. Meretta, told my mother I was one of the hardest working kids she had ever had. Until then, no adult had ever said anything positive about me. Really. My parents were concerned that I showed no genius academically. They compared me to other kids (always unfavorably). My other teachers were either distracted by personal problems, or they just seemed mean (maybe they weren’t, but they seemed unapproachable). One teacher said she liked me, but I rushed through my work too quickly to get to the “book table.” I liked reading too much.

I loved Ms. Meretta. I worked even harder after her comment to my mom. But this time, I worked hard not just for myself..but for Ms. Meretta, too.

When I was a young adult, I worked as a summer camp counselor for the YMCA. It was a fun and rewarding job. I loved the energy the kids brought each day. I loved thinking of fun activities and working with them. I laughed every day. I laughed every hour.

I’ve held different jobs but none have had the creative opportunities or the intrinsic rewards of teaching. One of my favorite gifts from a student was a short letter. I had recommended him to go to a school for high-achieving students. He had older siblings who attended a school closer to his home. He always assumed he’d follow their footsteps. It was easy to hold the fastest track time there. It was easy to be the best student. I told him I knew he would succeed at the Academy, a school that was more rigorous and offered both Spanish and Mandarin. “Besides,” I told him. “if you go and you don’t like it, you can always go to the other school.” He went to the Academy and he loved it. He wrote a letter thanking me because he’s so happy and he’s learning so much. His younger sister now attends the Academy, too.

Helping kids is endlessly rewarding.

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week. I wish the media and politicians would stop with the negative talk about teachers and public education. Why pick on educators? Of course not every single teacher is highly qualified, but not every doctor, nurse, accountant, or politician is, either. For every lousy teacher you hear about, there are easily 1,000 fantastic teachers. I’ve had to handle a sixth grade student who slashed her peers with a razor. I’ve had to handle a fourth grade student who crapped his pants every week. I’ve had to handle students who complained of verbally abusive parents and who cried of hunger.

I teach in Arizona. We rank absolutely LAST in teacher pay. Last! 

I did not go into teaching for the money and I will never expect the pay to equal the work or expertise.

My reward is working with the children. Yes, we get summer break, but most of my teacher friends will hold a second job (teach summer school, drive Uber Lyft, etc.) to make ends meet in June and July.

Did you know…

  • Teachers must get a fingerprint card renewed regularly and they pay for it.
  • Teachers must get recertified and they must pay for it.
  • Most teachers pay for school supplies for their students.

Let’s stand behind teachers who work to help students.

 

 

 

 

 

Moms · Personal Success

A Mother’s Twisted Take on “Vacation”

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I am about to chaperone an 8th grade Close-Up trip. It will be hard work: a red eye flight and then lots of walking, talking, learning, and teaching for 6 entire days (and nights). BUT, I will not have to:

teach all day and then…

  • cook meals;
  • vacuum;
  • dust;
  • grocery shop;
  • feed the dog;
  • do laundry; and
  • drive kids to schools and violin lessons

This trip ought to be an R&R of sorts!

 

 

education · Personal Success · writers

“Not Knowing” Is OK

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I gave my 5th graders a writing assignment today. I already knew what they’d say after our poetry lesson and the directions. “I don’t know what to write about!”

Literally, I had to turn away ten students from my desk. They are so frightened to face a blank piece of paper and not know “the answer” immediately. They wanted me to tell them what to write.

I found myself saying, “It’s OK to sit in anguish.” I was joking, of course, what I meant was,

“It’s OK to sit without knowing.”

You don’t know what will happen tomorrow.. You don’t know what you’ll be when you grown up. You don’t know who you will marry (or if you will)!

So sit with not knowing. Be quiet and still. Let it come to you.

 

 

 

 

education · Personal Success

Birds’ Eye View

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The world is a vast, vast place

Our lives are short, relatively speaking

Keep a wide perspective,

Don’t focus on the small

Do you want to be remembered for your immaculate car and house?

Are you really going to get upset about traffic and a rude co-worker or boss?

Or…do you want to leave a legacy of love and passion?

What you focus on grows.

comic · education · Personal Success

Don’t Overestimate the Power of Review

 

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A couple weeks ago, I taught my 5th graders how to diagram sentences. We started out very simple. They liked it, because it was kind of like geometry in English class. Basically, students were to separate the subject from the verb and create dangling shelves for modifiers. After practicing ten sentences, we started our literature study and left diagramming off to the side.

On their vocabulary test today, I decided to be generous and offer extra credit for diagramming a very simple sentence related to our literary study, The Sign of the Beaver. Here are two responses:

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Where’s the other woman?

 

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I’m speechless.