Happy World Teachers’ Day!

SeDo Dictionary_34SM

Third Graders learn the “Dictionary Race” during a Dictionary Day Presentation.

Bet you didn’t know today is World Teachers’ Day! Empowering teachers, building sustainable societies,” is the slogan for 2015.

By sheer coincidence, today I will be working with eighty third graders as part of the Valley Grange Words for Thirds Program. The program is designed to give third graders their own personal dictionary. I have the honor of facilitating the process and teaching the kids a little history and some basic dictionary skills.

Another coincidence was that one of the email newsletters I subscribe to included a very appropriate quote by thinker Friedrich Nietzsche (October 15, 1844–August 25, 1900).

Your true educators and cultivators will reveal to you the original sense and basic stuff of your being, something that is not ultimately amenable to education or cultivation by anyone else, but that is always difficult to access, something bound and immobilized; your educators cannot go beyond being your liberators. And that is the secret of all true culture: she does not present us with artificial limbs, wax-noses, bespectacled eyes – for such gifts leave us merely with a sham image of education. She is liberation instead, pulling weeds, removing rubble, chasing away the pests that would gnaw at the tender roots and shoots of the plant; she is an effusion of light and warmth, a tender trickle of nightly rain…

There may be other methods for finding oneself, for waking up to oneself out of the anesthesia in which we are commonly enshrouded as if in a gloomy cloud – but I know of none better than that of reflecting upon one’s educators and cultivators.

And therein lies a wonderful way to celebrate this relatively unknown day… thinking about those who have educated and “cultivated” us. We are all teachers and educators. We are all learners and students. I expect to learn something from these kids today. And I hope they learn something from me and the experience they have.

As I read Nietzche’s thoughts I was most struck by his suggestion that educators are liberators. Dictionary Day today will have, for me, a slightly different meaning today. I will be considering how today’s lesson and the book each child leaves with will be freeing and surely contribute to the person each becomes. As the kids would say, “Awesome!”

World Teacher Day

Leave a comment

Filed under Causes and Friends, Learning, Personal Growth, Teaching

The 8 Minutes That Matter Most | Edutopia

Like a story, lessons deserve compelling beginnings and endings. From pop culture connections to finishing with a level-up, here are eight strategies for holding students’ attention.

This is a great post about… well, getting and holding students’ attention. As a writer, I particularly enjoyed the quote from John Irving.

Source: The 8 Minutes That Matter Most | Edutopia

Leave a comment

Filed under Learning, Teaching, Writing Skills

A Great Teacher…

Tomorrow I will be teaching a course for substitute teachers. Yesterday I happen to talk to someone I believe is a truly great teacher. We bumped into each other in a grocery store. Since she looked troubled, I asked what was wrong. She replied, “I’m trying to do some math in my head.” We had a lot of fun with that. (She was buying some supplies for a class project that sounded really awesome.) Of course we ended up comparing notes and sharing “war stories.” People didn’t seem to mind going around us, standing in the aisle and laughing over some of the things we’ve experienced.

Towards the end of our conversation, we talked about some folks we knew who have recently retired. This great teacher said, “I’ve been teaching forty years.” We did some more math to estimate how many kids she’s taught. Then she added, “I really should be thinking about retiring, but I can’t.”

When I asked her why she replied, “Because I’m having way too much fun!”

The folks I’ll work with tomorrow may not be “teachers” in the formal sense of the word. But they will be teaching. My hope for them and the students they have–if only for a day–is that they will find the business of learning fun. It won’t always be easy. But it should always be meaningful. When we start to forget that, here’s a short reminder.

Leave a comment

Filed under Causes and Friends, Classes and Courses, Teaching

It’s a Question of Value…

Here’s a video that’s definitely worth the four minutes or so it will take to watch:

Please note this is not just about what we pay teachers. I’m not sure it’s supposed to be about how much we value teachers. It might be about how much we value our kids, their education, and all of our futures.

Leave a comment

Filed under Causes and Friends, Teaching

Email Issues…

Just a quick post to let folks know… for the past 24 hours or so email sent to me has probably been “bouncing.” This was due to a weird “glitch” in my domain registration that I believe has been fixed. I’m told, however, that the repair may take “24 to 48 hours to propagate.”

If you are or have been having trouble, keep trying! If you’ve sent me an email recently, it might not hurt to send it again. If you’re wondering why I haven’t replied to an email… send it again, please! Sorry for the inconvenience… and thanks for your patience!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Substitute Teaching — FAQ

teacher_colaberation_pc_400_clr_3388When announcements of the Substitute Teacher Training Course are made, I always get a few calls and emails with questions. I occasionally joke in classes that “It depends…” is rarely a wrong answer, so before I try to answer a few, I’ll make a general disclaimer: Individual school districts set policy and procedure–including the required qualifications for substitutes, amount of pay, etc. That said, here are some questions I hear often and general answers.

Am I required to take this course before I apply or substitute teach?


What are the requirements for being hired as a substitute teacher?

It depends! In general, you’ll need a minimum of a high school education. You’ll also be required to be fingerprinted and pass a background check. The fingerprinting and background check is universal–districts may vary in terms of educational level and other requirements.

Does this course include help getting a job?

The course will briefly review the general process, including information regarding fingerprinting. We cannot, obviously, guarantee you’ll be hired.

Will this course qualify me to be an ed tech (also sometimes referred to as “para professional)?

Given the topics covered, this course will likely be helpful to an ed tech, but is not an “approved course of study.” Unlike substitute teacher, there are very specific state requirements. For more specific information, see the Department of Education’s website.

What topics does the course include?

A lot! Some of the topic headings are: Expectations of stakeholders, a “typical” day, classroom management techniques, teaching strategies, legal aspects,  and special education. Of necessity, some topics are handled as an overview.

How will I be paid as a sub?

This may vary by district, but in our area the most common schedule seems to be bi-weekly (every two weeks).

I’m already a working substitute–will this course be of any benefit to me?

Some districts offer a slightly higher pay rate for substitutes who’ve attended this training. That aside, subs who’ve taken the course have often found the course beneficial either because they’ve learned new techniques or because laws and rules have changed since they started.

What’s the easiest grade level to sub for?

Do you like chocolate or vanilla ice cream?  Seriously, this is truly a matter of personal preference based somewhat on the age/grade the sub is most confident with.

If you have a question, please send it along… or better yet, bring it to class! I encourage class participation and questions–and we try to have fun learning!

Leave a comment

Filed under Classes and Courses, Teaching

Stress Relief in a Box?

custom_colored_crayons_box_17397Feeling stressed? Grab your crayons!

I’ve often used crayons… myself, with adults, and as a way to occupy children who are visiting. So I wasn’t surprised when I learned recently that the New Canaan, CT Library has colored pencils and coloring sheets for adults to “check out” and use to relieve stress and even help with writer’s block. What a great idea!

Of course it’s not just crayons and coloring. Art therapy is accepted method of reducing stress and increasing creativity. The experts tell us that activities like coloring help us by serving as a distraction–even if only for a few minutes. Even coloring a picture means thinking about color choice and concentrating on “staying inside the lines.” When we become completely engaged in an activity we achieve a state of “flow” that can be almost meditative. Consider the “runner’s high” as another form of this.

Personally, I think coloring is even more fun if you can do it with a kid. When my nieces and nephews were younger, holiday visits often meant finding a quiet corner and engaging in coloring marathons. At the time, I thought we were playing, In retrospect, we may have been practicing a little stress management. Holidays with the family aren’t always easy.

But coloring can be useful with adults. When I was doing lots of organization design and development programs, I would often have the conference room table set up with boxes of crayons and art paper. The president and vice president would arrive and, while waiting for our session to begin, many would open the crayons and smell them, smiling with evoked childhood memories. The activity itself might be “draw a picture of how you see this organization…” It always took a while to get them started–unfortunately our childhood art skills and courage get surpressed as we “grow up.” But there were always some great and often revealing results.

I was a little disappointed recently when a friend who is very artistically talented said that she’d never call herself an artist because that is not a career choice she’ll be making. We are all artists, really. Art is about many things such as creativity and expression. We can see and use art in different ways. We don’t have to make a living with art, but art can help us make a life.

So I salute the Canaan Library for the reminder. Drawing and coloring are good. In fact, I think I’ll start keeping a box of crayons on my desk.

Leave a comment

Filed under Just for Fun, Personal Growth