The Very Hungry Caterpillar Drawing

April 12, 2007 at 7:31 pm | Posted in elementary, hope, life, personal, teachers | Leave a comment

The nice thing about being a teacher is that you find little gifts on your desk all the time. Here’s another drawing by a different student. She spent quite a lot of time on it! I removed her name from the image.


Technology in MY Classroom

April 10, 2007 at 6:50 am | Posted in donorschoose, dreams, education, elementary, hope, inner city, poverty, schools, teachers, technology in education, third grade | 1 Comment

A blog truly pissed me off today. You can read my ranting comment in reply.

The blogger might have meant to say something entirely different, but what I gathered from the post was that this blogger believes that technology is extremely important for the future of education, so teachers need to get out of their comfort level and start using technology in the classroom.


You can gather from my reply what my technology situation is in my inner city classroom.

While I love to whine and rage on so, eventually, I also take action. I am now beginning my campaign to get an LCD projector or Smartboard and twenty laptops into my classroom.

Please donate to my proposal and help us get technology in the classroom. Even $5 will help! I mean it! Every little bit counts toward something…a sense of hope for the future, a glimpse of what may be.

Give to DonorsChoose

Building Relationships – Key to Success for Children of Poverty

April 7, 2007 at 3:53 pm | Posted in education, elementary, hope, poverty, schools, teachers, third grade | 1 Comment

Q: That’s a good point. What should educators and school board leaders know about the motivation of kids in poverty? What is it they’re looking for? They’re not looking for a grade, are they?

No, it doesn’t mean anything. Because they don’t know anybody that went to college and they know they’re not going to college. And then people get mad because they change an “F” to an “A”. Well, why? It was just a mark.

The primary motivator of whether or not kids in poverty will learn is whether they like the teacher. It’s that relationship. It comes down to two things: you’ve got to teach them how to live in the paper world, and you have to have a relationship of respect with them.

Dr. Payne’s work will be the subject of the workshop, “Effectively Educating Students from Economically Diverse Backgrounds,” at CSBA’s Annual Education Conference and Trade Show on Dec. 3 in San Diego.

From a Q&A with Ruby Payne 

It’s nice to know that my instincts are correct sometime!  A teacher sent me this link to an interview with Ruby Payne. I’ve already forwarded information about Ruby Payne to folks at my school. Hopefully we can get the training!

One of the first thing I do as an educator is build relationships with my students and my parents.  It is a purely selfish reason.  If the kids like me and know me, they won’t give me a hard time.  More than that, they work hard for me everyday.  My students have much going on in their lives.  I’ve said it before, education is a low priority for them, but a solid relationship with their teacher can get them through the day.

I’m not saying I’m chummy with the kids.  I’m hardly chummy with my students.  I get to know them.  They get to know me.  I show respect to them.  They show respect to me.  I am firm and consistent with them, they know where they stand with me.

In the morning, I welcome them by saying, “Good morning!” to each and every student.  That tells them today will be a good day.  For the rest of the day, I work to provide them a safe learning environment.  At the end of the day, I shake their hands and say “Good night!  I’ll see you tomorrow!” They leave knowing they are loved and respected without my ever having to say the words.

Some simple things I do to build relationships.  I listen to their stories.  I invite some students to join me for lunch and begin a personal dialogue with them.  I share true stories about my life with them at appropriate time (like writing).  I bring my family in to meet them a few times a year.  I go to their birthday parties.  I ask how they’re feeling today if they don’t look so good.  I meet their siblings on the yard and get introduced.  I assure a means of communication with me, whether a note on my desk or an appointment at recess.

These are all little things and yet it adds up to a classroom of enthusiastic learners.

Students in control of learning – I’m in control of the classroom!

April 6, 2007 at 7:40 pm | Posted in education, elementary, hope, personal, schools, teachers, third grade | 1 Comment

I hear complaints like these from teachers all the time at my school:

  • These kids don’t want to learn!
  • These kids just aren’t motivated to learn!
  • These kids just can’t learn!

They’re also the ones who complain that the mandated curriculum is uninteresting, so the kids are bored and restless.   They’re also the ones who complain that the home environment is impossible to work with and the kids’ parents are at fault for the students’ failures at school. The teachers who make complaints like these are also the ones who are offended when you imply that it’s the teacher’s job to motivate students.

Watch these teachers with their students and you get the feeling that the students run the class. You’re probably correct too.

Teachers who deny responsibility for students’ motivation to learn abdicate control of the classroom and it shows.

I work very hard with my students on many level, all to assure their academic success in my classroom. Many of my fellow teachers at my school feel that I work far too hard and needlessly because these kids are hopeless cases. Then, these same teachers deny my hard work when I’ve met with successes, claiming that I had an “easy” class.  Makes my eyes twitch, I swear! I’m sure many of you have met teachers (and people!) like these.

To assure my students’ success, I first build relationships with them.  Inner city kids have much to deal with.  They do need a reason to come to school everyday and if that reason is to spend time with someone they enjoy spending time with, then so be it! I plan my lessons to tap into my students’ strengths and interests. Even if the curriculum is boring, I try to find ways to make it interesting. I tell them the purpose of the lessons, the steps along the way, and the final results. Students who know why they have to do something is more willing than the student who sits there and wonder why they have to learn this boring lesson.

These are the basics of teaching in the inner city. There are more strategies of course. And really, these are simply the basis of “good teaching”.

The result of all this hard work is that my classroom runs smoother. I don’t have to deal with student behavior problems all the time. And of course, my students learn.

Contrast that with a classroom full of unruly kids and an exhausted teacher who is always yelling. Why would anyone choose to teach in THAT classroom? I accept responsibility for every aspect of my classroom and students’ learning, and in so doing, I gain control of my classroom.

Proto-gangs in third grade

April 6, 2007 at 4:36 pm | Posted in education, elementary, gangs, hope, life, schools, teachers, third grade | 1 Comment

Inner city third graders are well aware of what the real world is like, more so than their teachers.

Through our class received a free digital camera. Every week, I designate one student as the Photographer. The Photographer keeps the camera in his/her desk for the week and take photos. Many photos you see on my website are taken by my student Photographer.

Because I allow my students to be in charge of the camera, I get to see a private side of my classroom that most teachers don’t normally see. Like this:

Students Throwing Signs

Interesting huh?  The student on the left is merely imitating. The student on the right is throwing a fairly correct sign. Yes, the student on the right has great difficulty at home and has an even greater difficulty adjusting to the rigor of a classroom environment. The student on the left has the potential to be a powerful leader, but right now, he prefers to follow his classmate’s lead. Both students have single mothers, but for different reasons.

I know their background very well and we have great successes in the classroom, but for the student on the right, the successes in the classroom mean nothing once he gets home. Unless his family life changes drastically, which it can!, you can see the writing on the wall for him, despite all his intellect, despite all his talents, despite all his sensitivity and curiosity. He is already reaching for a different kind of “family”.

The student on the left has great chance at a successful, gang-free future. His mother keeps a stern, watchful, and loving eye on him and his younger brother. Her message and mine are the same: you are smart and successful don’t let anyone pull you away from that. I hope that his future teachers see the leader that I see in him and treat him as such, and not put him down simply because he is an active kid.

Invited to a student’s birthday party

March 21, 2007 at 10:54 pm | Posted in dreams, education, hope, life, schools, teachers | 1 Comment

A mother came up to me today and, through an interpreter, tearfully poured out her hopes and dreams for her son, my student. He is her only child. She is divorced from his father, working three jobs to raise her son. She only gets to see him a few minutes each day, but she will try very hard to come see me more often to keep an eye on his education. She then handed me an invitation, purchased from the 99cent Store, to his birthday party this Saturday.

I cannot wait to go! I will not understand a word of the Spanish that they will speak, but I’ll be there with a brightly wrapped present to give to my student who carries the whole future of his family on his tiny shoulders.

Every day, he wakes himself up, dresses himself, and walks himself to school early so that he can eat the school breakfast. Everyday, he dutifully sits through my lessons, though much of it is over his head because he barely speaks English. He gets excited during Math because there, he can show how successful he is. At lunch time, he asks if he can return to the classroom to spend time with me and I always feel terrible when I have to turn him away if I have errands to run. Afterschool, he spends the rest of his day with his babysitter, an elderly woman who doesn’t speak any English either and who has far too many other children to look after. At night, he tucks himself in. If he was lucky, he got to see his mother before he falls asleep.

It is a lonely life for a boy who loves his mother dearly and whose mother loves him dearly.

I ask you, can YOU carry the whole burden of your family’s happiness on your adult shoulders? My students do it every day. I am humbled by the knowledge that they entrust ME with their education.

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