Quote of the Week

Never say you are "just" a teacher. That's like saying Clark Kent is "just" Superman.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Time Management Tips, by Ryan Hill, Business Teacher at Mt. Juliet High School

As a new teacher there are many things you can do to more effectively manage your time and not feel overwhelmed every day. Here are five of the top areas where you can become better at managing your time.

Over plan
As a high school teacher I am responsible for teaching 90 minute classes. When I am planning a lesson I always have a plan for what we will do if we finish early. This could mean starting the next section/topic, playing a review game, doing enrichment activities, etc. If something takes longer than expected don’t freak out just adjust your plans for the next day. One big issue new teachers have is getting done 10-20 minutes early and just letting students sit at their seats and talk quietly. You should always have more stuff planned than time allows. If you class is 90 minutes long you should plan for at least 120 minutes so if you get done early there is always more for your students to learn.

Keep Old Lesson Plans
In order to save time in the future and have a good idea about the pacing of a class keep your old lesson plans in an easy to use format. I like to make a table in Microsoft Word for each nine weeks that lists the date, standards covered, objectives, and what we did in class each day. When I teach the class again I have a great starting point and don’t have to wonder how long a chapter or topic usually takes to cover.

To Grade or Not to Grade
This is a big area all teachers struggle with not just new teachers. Some teachers think they have to grade every single thing their students turn in. This is ridiculous. You have to decide what you think is important enough to grade in your class. Did it measure how well a student learned a topic/standard? When students turn in some things I look at them and throw them straight in the trash can. Everything you give students to work on should have a purpose and help them but not everything needs to be graded by you. While students are working you should walk around the room to see what areas (if any) they are struggling in. This will give you a good idea on what may need to be covered again. Just because they turn it in does not mean you have to grade it. DO NOT feel bad about not grading everything students turn in.

Be willing to say no every once in a while when you are asked to do different things at school. As a new teacher you will probably be asked to do a lot of different things like coaching, serving on committees, sponsoring a club, tutoring outside of school hours, etc. While you don’t need to say no to everything you do need to learn how to say no when you feel like too much is being put on your plate.

Keep School at School as Much as Possible

Many new teachers think they need to constantly work on school stuff outside of school hours. This is not true. While you will need to work on some things at home there needs to be a line drawn between your professional life and personal life. I try to get as much planning and grading done as possible during my planning time at school. Some days I feel worn out and don’t want to but when I get finished I always feel better than if I had just relaxed and didn’t accomplish anything during my planning time. Also, make sure you always plan time for yourself to do stuff you enjoy. Many new teachers who feel burned out feel like that school is their whole life. Do fun stuff, go out with your friends, watch a movie, and relax when you are away from school. You will feel much better and refreshed when you come back to school and not dread getting up every morning.

Effective Grouping, by Danielle Mercer, 7th grade Social Studies Teacher at West Wilson Middle School

How do you group your students?

Grouping has been a hot issue with teachers since I first began teaching 11 years ago.  In college I was always told to group by a student’s ability level, put the highest with the highest and the lowest with the lowest.  However, this made absolutely no sense to me.  Why would you put the lowest with the lowest? They are the ones that need help the most.

Over the course of my years of teaching I have found what works best for me is seating my students in groups of 3.  Depending on the class that I have at the time I seat my students accordingly.  For example, in an inclusion class, I would put the higher level student in the middle of the 3 seats this way they can help both students if needed.  No one knows why they are seated together, who the high or the low student is but everyone works well together.  At the beginning of the year this is hard to do without knowing your students first.  One of the best things to use is their TCAP data.  This gives you a good indication of a student’s performance. This is what works best for me, and I feel like it helps all students equally.

Here are some things that you can look out for in your own classroom when grouping students:
  • Consider your students common interests.
  • If assigning a project that will require them to work outside of the classroom, think of the students technology use at home.
  • Don’t avoid using group work, even if it does get loud!  My students know that when I turn the lights out they are immediately required to get quiet.  Come up with a signal before you start group work that will let the students know if they are getting too loud.  Students enjoy mixing it up and working with their peers.
  • Don’t use the same grouping method every time.

I would love to hear how you group your students!  What works best for you?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Advice to New Teachers, by Eddie Rockensock, Physical Education Teacher at Mt. Juliet Middle School

Now that you have survived the first 9 weeks, here are some tips that I think will help your classroom run smoothly and give you the confidence to make this year one to build your foundation on. The beginning of your class is crucial to making your short time with your students count.

Every day you have a student without supplies. You want to teach them responsibility and hold them accountable. However, we must pick our battles. Your time is valuable and limited. Have your supplies ready to give. Do not make this a hill to climb. There are other situations that are prominent in molding the minds of our students. Taking time on supplies gets in the way of learning and what you have to teach every day.

The little things you do to prepare will make a huge impact. You spend so much of your time and thought in making lesson plans. Make this your focus every day for you and your students. Write down that day’s lesson on the board. Share with them how and why it is important for them to know this. Stay on task and make time at the end of class to ask them what they have learned, make this a conversation and not one sided. Studies have shown, just this simple connection will increase comprehension and retention by more than 50%! Isn’t this what teaching is all about!

Oh, this matter of discipline. We all what to relate and influence the kids we are responsible to enlighten. You struggle between controlling your classroom and equating with them. They automatically see you as an authority figure. You can control what is accepted in your class in a friendly manner! Ask kids who are misbehaving what they are doing, what they are supposed to be doing, and what they are going to do now. This will get to the heart of the matter quickly. Kids see you have a clear focus on what’s supposed to be happening and that you need this child to get right back to it. There is no personalized blaming or attacks, just a “let’s get back to work” focus. Figuring out quick, thoughtful ways to neutralize problems shows you care about your work and your kids. That goes a long way toward keeping your class running without disruption. Now that you know the exchange between certain kids in each class, organize students by who can help each other and not distract. Praise them for what they are doing right, then teach them the rest. That red pencil can take a toll on their confidence.

Every child has a fight between being themselves and pressure to “fit in”.  Give them choices to show case their unique personalities. Give yourself the chance to demonstrate they do matter.  Bonus work and the opportunity to improve can boost your relationship with them and with themselves. They come with a host of issues, make your classroom a safe place. Set down time to get involved in issues that pertain to them.

Finally, HAVE FUN! Burn out is REAL! Your enthusiasm and devotion are essential, but so is your sanity. Take time to be you. Do those activities that relieve stress and help you unwind. Take a break, you have earned it. This job is hard and underappreciated at times. But, you were born with a special gift .Take a step back and breathe. Remember why you are here, and if you ever feeling  overwhelmed, come find me or another seasoned teacher and vent, ask for help. We all have been there.  

Getting to know your Student Services Personnel (SSP), by Alston Denton, School Counselor at Lebanon High School

We go by many names and most people refer to us a Guidance Counselors.  (FYI… School Counselors do not like this term.  As we do so much more than that, we are School Counselors)

We as school counselors are here to help students focus on academic, career and social/emotional development so they achieve success in school and are prepared to lead fulfilling lives as responsible members of society.  School Counseling doesn’t just entail making schedule changes.  We are trained to be professional counselors and handle a variety of situations.

Here are some helpful tips that to help build positive relationships with your School Counselor:
1.       We wear many hats, but we are willing to help out wherever or whoever we can.
a.       Just know that sometimes we are bound to what our administration wants.
b.      Be patient with us.  As we wear a lot of hats, we try to finish everything as fast as we can.
a.       We don’t always get to see every student.  If you know of a student who is going through a rough time, let us know.
b.      If they need someone to talk to, if they are upset, if they make a statement that they want to hurt themselves or someone else, if they smell.
c.       We want to know about our students and teachers are the front line.  They see you more than us.
3.       If it should ever arise (let’s hope not), but if a student discloses something to you that should be reported to DCS, please don’t bring them to us to fill out the report or tell us secondhand to fill out the report.  You are still required by law to make the report. 
a.       From a school counseling perspective, I don’t mind helping a student through a situation and if something comes up that warrants a DCS referral – I will make one.
b.      But I don’t want you to get in trouble for not filing one.  We will be happy to sit with you and help you fill one out.
4.       It’s ok to say, “No.”
a.       For instance, sometimes we will call for students to come to the Counseling Center.  If that student needs to work on something like a test or something crucial, please let us know.  We don’t want to be a constant reason they are missing class.
b.      Likewise typically when we call for students it might be urgent, please let them come. But if there ever is a question, feel free to call or email us.
c.       I don’t want you as the teacher to be upset at the counselor for us calling down a student.  

Monday, October 12, 2015

Making Learning Fun, by Jennifer Conatser, Kindergarten Teacher at Gladeville Elementary School

Technology sure has rocked our world!  We literally cannot go anywhere without our smart phones.  If I leave home without it, I have to turn around and go get it.  In the classroom, we have made a shift to integrate more technology in our curriculum.  It seems as though these days kids and adults for that matter are so caught up in computer and video games, iPads, iPhones, tablets, and even television.  The world is changing and we have the world at our fingertips!  Honestly, even I am a little addicted to Pinterest, Instagram, and Netflix. 

As teachers we have seen how kids’ (and adults’ too if we are to get honest) attention spans have shortened.  If they are not engaged, you have lost them.  We use technology in the classroom as a way to keep them engaged and focused on what we are learning.  YouTube and TeacherTube are great resources for fun videos about a variety of topics.  My kids can always remember what a verb is thanks to G. Mitchell Hanson’s “Verb Rap” on YouTube.  If you haven’t seen it, check it out.  It is sure to get your body moving, as well as get stuck in your head.  Verb Rap  Another favorite website is www.watchknowlearn.org.  They have great videos on almost everything you can think of, and the great thing is that you can filter by age group.  Plus there are no commercials or ads on these videos.  We use www.gonodle.com for brain breaks and transition times.  As teachers we are not merely facilitators of learning, but also great actors who are fighting to keep their audience by any means necessary. 

How do we make learning fun in this age of technology?  I definitely think utilizing technology is a great and wonderful thing, but we don’t need to be dependent upon it.  If all kids could learn from an app or a website, teachers wouldn’t be needed.  Every child is unique and learns in different ways at different rates.  We need consider each child in our classroom, their strengths and weaknesses.  We need to meet them where they are and help move them along in their lifelong journey of learning!  How do we do this?  We make learning fun!  Learning can be fun using a video online that connects with them.  It can also be made into a game that you play.  In order for learning to occur, it has to be made real to the kids.  In Kindergarten, we use lots of hands on activities and even play.  Play is very impactful for all learners.  I would dare say, even more impactful than learning from a computer.  When learning is paired with play, it engages the students and promotes retention.  Think about it, some of your fondest memories from school involved play, even if it was just around the world. 

Some ways I make learning fun in my classroom through play include playing in shaving cream.  This sensory activity entices every child.  We write CVC words and sight words on the tables in the shaving cream.  We build words using Legos.  We dance and spell sight words.  My husband helped me make some abacuses for my classroom using cut up pieces of pool noodles and PVC pipe.  The kids love these, and it helps them see and feel how numbers can change.  We act out stories we have read and make finger puppets of characters for retelling.  We have snowball fights with wadded pieces of paper that students have written words on.  Afterwards, each student must obtain one snowball and draw a picture to represent that word.  The kids love to write on small white boards with expo markers.  We practice writing CVC words, sight words, and even work out math word problems on them.  If you have writing practice to do, allowing the kids to write with thin markers or even pen makes them giddy.  I tell them they cannot erase pen or marker, so they have to be extra careful and take their time.  Go outside!  Have class in the grass on nice days.  Let the kids write their spelling words with chalk on the side walk.  Find things that interest them, and incorporate those activities with recall activities.  Try to make learning fun by explaining how they would use this in the real world.  If you are learning expanded form, let the kids write checks to spell out the number words.  Make it relate to them and make it fun!

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

                Benjamin Franklin

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

How Can Your Library Media Specialist Help You? By Ann Nored, LMS at Wilson Central High School

As a new teacher, you may not be aware of what your Library Media Specialist (LMS) can do for you.  The LMS at your school can help you in many ways.

•Provide instruction in information literacy, digital literacy, and digital citizenship.
•Provide lessons on website evaluation, reliable resources, how to cite sources, and how to use databases to find the best information.
•Provide collaborative curriculum preparation and instruction with classroom teachers. Your LMS will work with you to develop lessons and create meaningful projects.
•LMS can help you to incorporate technology into your lessons. Your LMS can help you and your class with a new technology tool, such as Animoto or Google Classroom.
•Find the best resources--books, databases, etc.--for what you are teaching.
•Development of a carefully selected library collection that supports research, reading, and personal interests of students.
•Recommend recreational reading materials based on our students' interests, abilities, and needs.
•Model a love for reading to our students and promote reading through contests, displays, Book Clubs, and Book Fairs.
•Many of the LMS's in Wilson County also serve as their schools' Technology Coaches.
•Collaborating with the LMS saves time, because LMS knows what is available and not as much of your time is spent searching for materials, good websites, etc.
•Provides a welcoming environment in the library.
•Provides a virtual library through the library website that provides access to library resources 24/7.
•Some LMS's are providing makerspaces in the library for hands-on activities.
•Encourage a culture of literacy by providing reading materials in a variety of formats, genres, and reading levels.

If your LMS is not yet collaborating with you, take the initiative to invite them to your next grade-level or departmental planning session or PLC! We would welcome the opportunity!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Red Ribbon Week, by Lynell O'Reel, School Counselor at Rutland Elementary School


  Red Ribbon Week
   October 23-31, 2015

Red Ribbon Week is the oldest and largest drug prevention campaign in the country.
Although the start/end dates can vary slightly depending on the organization and source, Red Ribbon Week generally takes place the last full week in October, with the weekends before and following the last full week included as appropriate celebration dates. This year Red Ribbon Week will be celebrated October 23-31, 2015.

Red Ribbon Week serves as a vehicle for communities and individuals to take a stand for the hopes and dreams of our children through a commitment to drug prevention and education and a personal commitment to live drug free lives with the ultimate goal being the creation of drug free America.

And, perhaps more importantly, Red Ribbon Week commemorates the ultimate sacrifice made by DEA Special Agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena, who died at the hands of drug traffickers in Mexico while fighting the battle against illegal drugs to keep our country and children safe.

This site, which is the sponsor for imdrugfree.com and drugsrdumb.com, offers exciting and creative prevention messages and Red Ribbon Week materials, as well as valuable Red Ribbon ideas for schools, businesses, and religious institutions.


This site offers current prevention news, facts, funding and grant information, and links to even more resources. There are classroom activities available. 

Red Ribbon Ideas, by Lynell O'Reel, School Counselor at Rutland Elementary


Red Ribbon Week
October 27-31, 2014

Next week is Red Ribbon Week.  This celebration provides us with an opportunity to renew our commitment to a healthy and drug – free lifestyle and show our dedication to education and prevention efforts in our schools and communities.
The Red Ribbon is a symbol of unity against the illegal use of drugs.  This public display came about in response to the tragic 1985 murder of a Federal Drug Enforcement Administration Agent, Enrique Camarena. 
Now a national celebration, Red Ribbon Week, allows educators, parents, community groups, students, and others to focus on the work being done to stop the spread of drugs and to draw attention to the growing millions who have pledged to live drug – free.

We will have a theme each day to celebrate Red Ribbon Week.  Our Red Ribbon Week activities include:
Monday           LOVE Yourself, Be Drug Free!  Dress in RED    
Tuesday          Rutland Rockets display PEACE & POWER to STAND UP against DRUGS &             
                             BULLYING! Wear 60’s clothing or tie dye.
Wednesday     Rutland Rockets are Drug Free!  Dress in your Rutland Spirit Wear or Rutland colors.  
Thursday         Be a HERO everyday being Drug free! Wear camouflage or patriotic colors.
 Friday              Rutland Rockets “TEAM UP” against Drugs!  Wear your favorite sports TEAM jersey.