Sunday, April 19, 2009

Monetary Value

The complaint that teachers are not paid enough can be heard far and wide on any given day. I tend not to engage in the discussion because 1) I put very little value in money and the need to gain more of it and 2) the worth of my job has always exceeded it's monetary value.

At some point though, you have to be practical. Without divulging too much of my own financial situation, let's just say that on a teacher's salary it is actually IMPOSSIBLE for a single young teacher with 4 years of undergraduate loans to pay rent/mortgage on their own in the Chicago suburbs and still be able to eat at the end of the day. I have run the numbers a million times and I can not grow something out of nothing. It is for this reason alone that I am adopting roommates this summer.

Roommates are fine, pinching pennies is fine...but what about everything else? What if there is an emergency? A hospital bill or a car breakdown? I'm pretty sure that I need my health to teach and a car to get to school every day. And even more than than, what about living life? Experiencing new things, going new places, and (inevitably) paying for them?

My friend and I have been trying to plan a trip this summer. We don't ask for much, but it is important to both of us to go to a Spanish speaking country to further our Spanish skills (which is a direct benefit to our students and parents upon the return of a new school year). We have a limited window of time in which to go (because financial constraints dictate my need to teach summer school) and limited funds on which to travel. We even looked into service projects in other countries where you can stay with a host family and found their costs to be almost twice as much as a regular vacation.

The point is, my story is not different from any one else's. In fact, I'm sure others have incurred unfortunate expenses that I couldn't even dream of. But money is not important to me. If someone else needs it and I have it, I don't bat an eyelash in offering it. I just want to be able to live life...and the monetary value applied to teachers doesn't cut it.

The problem:

1. Good teachers will feel devalued and believe less in the importance of what they do.
2. Good teachers will not be able to further their education (whether it be through travel or graduate level courses) which directly impacts the students they teach.
3. Good teachers will burn themselves out taking on second jobs or working all summer.
4. Good teachers will walk away.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Literacy Centers Have Made All the Difference

I have a group of 3rd graders who have just been close to impossible to handle this year. Luckily, my 4th graders have been magically delightful so it has definitely cushioned the blow. However, I got to this point where I would literally dread the hour and fifty minutes devoted to 3rd grade literacy after lunch time.

The solution? Literacy Centers.

Those of you who are wise and fabulous are going to tell me that you already knew how amazing literacy centers could be and that the following information is way too basic, but for those of us who are young and new and could use a push in the right direction, here are some simple guidelines for success:

1) Read with EVERY child. Some literacy center models have the teachers work with only the lower groups (or spend more time with them). I split my time into 3 twenty minute sessions. I see every student every day for "Read with the Teacher" time. It gives the students a chance for individual attention and instruction catered to their level. I have students who never participate during whole group instruction who are the shining stars of their small groups.

2) Group students wisely. I know there are a lot of philosophies about grouping students. What has worked for me has been a combination of grouping based on skill level and personality. This takes a good understanding of each of your individual students but it is worth taking the time to figure out. Students who work well together are more productive when asked to accomplish independent and small group tasks.

3) Always have a Creation Station. One of the literacy centers should be an extension of the story which asks the students to push the boundaries and create something new. The story from this week, for example, was a folktale from China. The students were asked to do internet research and create a map of China and research facts and the language in order to create their own presentation about the country and culture. During the mythology unit we read the story of "Arachne the Weaver" and the students learned how to weave with yarn and handmade "looms". These creations apply a real life aspect to stories that the students might not otherwise connect with.