June 28, 2016

Ten Ways to be an Amazing Teacher... From a Parent's Point of View

My son is getting ready to start kindergarten. Yes - I blinked and it happened! It's summer, so I've had time to reflect on his days in preschool. I've been able to see education from a parent's point of view, which has helped me become a better teacher. Here are some things I've learned.

  1. Treat everyone fairly. Blake was blessed with amazing preschool teachers. Every teacher and assistant that he has worked with has treated everyone fairly. If Blake did something amazing, he was rewarded. If Blake broke a rule, he was punished. Everyone was treated the same.
  2. Communicate. As a teacher, I didn't always communicate well with parents. Yes, I responded to e-mails, phone calls and notes, but I didn't really go any further than that. Through Blake, I've learned that communication is more than that. It's important to keep parents in the know. For example, if Blake had a rough day, I would get a phone call or a note. If there were skills he was struggling with, his teachers would let me know and provide resources for me to help him. His teachers would send notes about upcoming events, and then send reminders, too! As teachers, we can (and should) step up the level of communication. You can't be in contact with every family every day. However, I do feel that we need to reach out to and include parents as much as possible.
  3. Send work home. I'm sure most of us do this already, but I did want to include this because I think it is so important. In my classroom, I *try* to send work home on a weekly basis. I send it inside a manila folder with a sheet of paper inside. The paper has room for a parent signature, as well as a place to make any comments if needed. I love it when I pick up Blake and there is work in his cubby. It shows me what he has worked on during the day, plus it allows me to see his progress. A friend of mine has a son in high school and his teacher never sends work home. All she sees are his report card grades. She doesn't know what he is working on, doing well in, or struggling with, which is very frustrating to her. 
  4. Celebrate your students. Celebrate your students - anything and everything! It doesn't take long to call home and let a parent know that her daughter has finally mastered her multiplication tables. Or send a quick e-mail to let a parent know that her son has made a new friend at recess. In preschool, they make a big deal about birthdays. I wasn't able to leave school to be with my son for his school party, but his teacher took pictures and sent them to me. 
  5. Incorporate students' interests in your classroom. I had a few students who didn't really like school last year. They were great students, but it took a little more on my part to keep them interested. One student liked dinosaurs, so I made sure to incorporate some hands-on activities that I knew he would like during our fossils unit. Another student was a huge Beetles fan. So during morning work, I would make sure a Beetles song was on my playlist. These are little things, but they mean the world to students. It shows them that you care. After the last Minions movie came out, Blake was into Minion everything! So his teacher bought a Minions Jello kit and let the students make it in the classroom, complete with Minion glasses! 
  6. Take time to do arts & crafts. I am no artist, and any student that has ever had me will tell you that! However, you can still do art projects with your students. Give students the opportunity to show you what they learned through a drawing, a sculpture, or another format. Then send this work home. I remember several years ago, before I had my son, doing a Christmas craft at school. I didn't want to give up my class time to do it. Face it - it's hard work on teachers! However, my colleague did have a daughter. I remember her telling me how precious those crafts were to her as a mother. Now that I have a son, I totally see what she meant. So now, even though we are pushed for time, I always take a little time for art and crafts. 
  7. Love them. We don't always know what our students are going through. Maybe they have had a terrible morning at home and are looking forward to school. Or maybe their pet died last night and they didn't want to come to school. Whatever the case, love your students.
  8. Let them play. I have seen, more than ever, how important play is to children. I love that Blake's teachers give them so much time to play. They know how important it is to a child's development. I read a study from Texas where students were having recess more times during the day. The result was increased test scores. Maybe you can't have recess very often, but you can incorporate brain breaks into your routine. I love Go Noodle! We take breaks in between lessons, which helps students get refocused and recharged. It's vital to children't development to let them play!
  9. Let students have a voice. This year I asked my students to grade me. In the past, I've given a paper copy of a "report card" for them to complete. This year, I went Google! I sent students a link to a Google form and asked them to "grade" me. They loved that they were given a chance to be heard. I loved their responses!! They said they loved math, but added, "Please don't teach out of the book every day." 
  10. Be real with your students. This tip just makes life real. Sometimes you won't know the answers, and that's ok! Tell students that! Sometimes you mess up and it's ok! Students need to see that we aren't perfect. They need to learn skills to help them through situations where they may not know the answers.
I hope I've given you some ideas on for your classroom. If you have any additional tips, I would love to hear them! Comment below if you're willing to share!

June 12, 2016

Pros and Cons of Team Teaching

Last year was my first attempt at team-teaching. I teamed with a colleague. I taught all of the math, science, and social studies. She taught all of the language arts and health. It was an eye-opening year.

  1. Students - I had the opportunity to have 45 students (not at one time) instead of 22. We switched, so one class had 23 and the other had 22. I got to meet and work with more students, which is always a positive!
  2. Fewer subjects - I go to teach math (my favorite), science and social studies. Because I had fewer subjects to plan for, I had more time to prepare my lessons.
  3. A great teammate - My colleague is awesome! It was very nice to have her support, encouragement & feedback!
  4. Parent conferences - We did conferences together, which was awesome. Yes, it was twice the number of conferences that I would have normally had, but with two of us, we were able to give parents more specifics about their child. 

  1. Parent communication - I had an AWESOME group of parents this year. However, it was challenging to communicate effectively with all of them. 
  2. Absences - I have student folders to keep up with students' missing work. If a student is absent, I (or my students) put a folder on his/her desk and fill it with missed assignments for the day. However, when there are two different classes, this can get overwhelming.
  3. Sharing desks - This was a NIGHTMARE!!!!! Every... Single... Day someone was complaining that his/her stuff was moved, messed with, or missing. I get it - I would complain too if my things were gone. However, with crunched schedules and a heavy curriculum, it took up SO much time trying to track down missing items.
  4. Schedule changes - If we had an assembly, or a fire drill, or anything out of the ordinary, our schedules would have to be switched around. This was ok, and we always worked through it, but I am SUCH a planner that it was hard for me to have to change my plan during the day. 
  5. The master schedule - Our schedule wasn't good this year. I taught my first block for an hour and a half. Perfect! Then, I only got my second block for 45 minutes. Then we had specials and lunch. Then I taught the second half of my second block. Then we had recess. Then I taught my second block again, then finished the day with my first block. Confused? So was I! Each block of students had the exact amount of time, but the day was so chopped up that I felt a little chaotic some most days.

Do you team teach or co-teach? I'm looking for the best ideas out there to help shorten my list of challenges and lengthen my list of positives. I would love to hear from you!! Check back soon for a blog post about ways to make this teaching style more productive!

June 11, 2016

New Blog Name!

My name is Monica Parsons. Welcome to my new blog!! You may know me by my former blog name - NC Teacher Chick. I decided to change my blog name for a couple of reasons.

  1. My Teachers Pay Teachers store name is Monica Parsons. I don't know if you are like me, but I always have a million thoughts running through my head. I need simplification. Therefore, all of my social media sites are now streamlined.
  2. I have never called myself "chick" or thought of myself as a "chick!" The only reason that my blog was ever NC Teacher "Chick" was because of my first blog design. When I was first learning how to blog, I found a free design site. A cute one that caught my eye had "chicks" on it. I loved the design, so I named the blog after it. 
So that's the story behind my blog name change. I'm excited to be here, on my new site.