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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in relationships

Posted by on in What If?

While you may not see them, the parents or guardians of your students are in your classroom every day. As the primary caregivers of your students, they influence how your students think, feel, and react. Even though the ideal parent or guardian would be informed and supportive while providing a stable home environment and supervising homework, not all individuals meet these ideals. Instead, the parents and guardians of our students are people much like ourselves.  They want to do what is best for their children and don’t always know exactly how to go about it.

Some are overinvolved in their children’s lives and extremely sensitive to the smallest problem—real or imagined. Some will have a negative view because of unpleasant past experiences with school. Still others will be positive and supportive allies. Despite this complicated variation, one thing is certain. Creating a successful relationship with parents and guardians is the classroom teacher’s responsibility. Here are a few suggestions that can be adapted by almost any teacher.

At the start of the term send home a letter that explains the most important rules, policies, and procedures in your classroom. In particular, be very careful to explain your homework policy if you want parents or guardians to help you with this area.

Make sure that all written correspondence is neat, legible, and carefully proofread so that you appear as professional as possible. Readers should pay attention to your message, not question your expertise.

Contact parents or guardians when their children are successful as well as when you need their help in solving a problem. When they hear good news from school, parents or guardians realize you are trying to help their children be successful. When they only hear from teachers when there’s trouble, they quickly learn to dread conversations with us.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

If I were to believe my early childhood students, singing with children is passe. Being a small sample (this class has thirty students), perhaps I am being overly harsh. But then again, prior classes had also moved into the dizzying array of YouTube videos for preschoolers. Blingy, fast-moving, cartoonish music videos have become the go-to resource for finding music and movement activities for young children. These have supplanted the older, Fred Rogers, style of meeting children where they are, to my profound regret. In my infants and toddlers course, despite my admonitions to the contrary, teachers use videos of people dressed as gummy bears dancing routines I myself would have to practice before doing, and I used to sing and dance in front of audiences. Up-tempo renditions of favorite children’s songs frustrate young children’s attempts to comply with the teacher’s request to “do what they do on the video”. Students say that their activities allow children to have fun and do their best, but their best means just trying to keep up. And those costumed creatures in the video aren’t going to slow down for them.

What’s the fuss, you may ask. YouTube is colorful, fun, and entertaining. Ah, here’s the rub. Music activities for young children are not just for passive entertainment. They are for forging group identity, cultural awareness, and  learning to be with others in a common purpose. In movement, teachers can assess motor issues, and learn what they students enjoy doing. Plus, a music and movement activity allows teachers to bond with children. If teachers have difficulty doing a move, the group laughs, teacher included. How much more warm and inviting this is! Relationships being the center of a great early childhood program, children can connect with adults in community and care.

I do not shun CD’s of such notables as Laurie Berkner, Raffi, or Hap Palmer. I highly recommend them, and have used them often. There are no distracting, over-stimulating visuals. Both teachers and children delight in finding new songs to “do”. My students have brought CD’s into class to dance to. I remember a little guy (now in middle school) sneaking his mom’s Persian music CD into class and asking us to dance with him! Children routinely ask for old favorites (Bear Hunt, anyone?). But CD’s can’t take the place of real singing. I’ve done Raffi’s Something in my Shoe for years, but I memorized it and never did it with the CD. It is too fast. Singing and moving a cappella allows teachers to stop, if necessary, and give support to children. YouTube videos do not stop for anyone.

You can do it! Find songs you like and share them with your students. Let your authentic enthusiasm spark their imaginations. Allow spontaneous and hilarious additions from the peanut gallery! That enthusiasm, and the interactions it allows, is so much more valuable to children than a bunch of dancing gummy bears. Give yourself and your students the gift of real, live musical experiences.

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Posted by on in General

Jack and His Plans for Next Year:

"Mr. Ramsey!"

I try hard to ignore goofy Jack who, at 13, still doesn't know how to raise his hand to get my attention.

"Mr. Ramsey!"

I grit my teeth. Don't give in, I say to myself. Don't even look his way.

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Posted by on in General

My teaching career began thirty-five years ago in Coolidge, a little Arizona city located midway between Phoenix and Tucson. Before I received the call for an interview and subsequently traveled the desolate 70 mile freeway drive from the Valley, I barely knew of the city's existence.

By day, I taught Biology to freshman at the high school. By night, I taught their mothers.

Coolidge is one of those towns, much like fictional Mayberry, where everyone knows everyone else, and nobody's business is their own. Everyone is connected somehow.

Mrs. Ramirez, who taught Spanish down the hall from me, moonlighted at nearby Central Arizona College as some sort of director in order to supplement her family income. She was working closely that semester with the women in town who were employed by the Head Start program. These ladies needed a science class added to their transcripts in order to continue with their employment. Mrs. Ramirez marched into my science lab between classes and informed me that I was just the person to get the job done. I didn't protest. I was a new teacher - I hadn't learned how to say no yet!

Despite the fact that I had never taught adult learners, and despite the fact that I had just begun teaching high schoolers - the first time with my own kids (student teaching didn't count) - I accepted the challenge! I was green, yes, but I was not easily frightened!

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Posted by on in General

red thread

Doris and Carl Malone sat at their usual table in The Forgotten Crumb enjoying the performances of slightly inebriated patrons searching for their fifteen minutes of fame at the karaoke microphone. The couple had met here nearly twenty-eight years before, fallen in love, and married on the very stage that was now a platform for a middle-aged woman trying her best to sound like Barbra Streisand. She was followed by a young construction worker channeling his inner Barry Manilow and then by an elderly couple singing “I Got You Babe,” expertly and comedically nailing the mannerisms of Sonny and Cher.

Doris relaxed, enjoying the music, but enjoying her time with the love of her life more so. When Carl impulsively rose and moved toward the stage though, she gasped and blushed. This was something she would never consider doing in public despite the fact that she was in front of a demanding crowd of third graders every Monday through Friday. Carl, on the other hand, had no inhibitions, and moved confidently toward the microphone.

With the first few notes of “Song Sung Blue,” Doris felt happy tears rolling down her cheeks. Our song, she mused. Better even than Neil Diamond himself.

“Song sung blue, weeping like a willow,
Song sung blue, sleeping on my pillow...”

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