Category Archives: reasons to teach

Today’s child – Maslow at work or did we forget?

In 1954 psychologist Abraham Maslow developed his theory of Hierarchy of Needs. His hierarchy is based on the assumption that human beings have basic needs. These needs expound upon each other over time until self-actualization occurs. We’ve come a long way since this theory was developed. Though time and circumstance see our world a different place, the basic tenants of human nature and needs stay the same. Needs being met allude to learning taking place and meaningful life. Since learning and views on life begin in the home and continue in school, what better gift can parents and teachers give children than to truly understand and strive to meet their basic needs?  Maslow said humans have physiological, safety, belongingness and love, esteem, and self-actualization needs. These needs begin with infancy and continue through adulthood. Childhood then, is a critical time for all.

What about current childhood experiences? When Maslow stated his theory, most families had two parent households with one parent working and one at home. The steady rise of one-parent families and extended working hours has placed a strain on the amount of time available to meet the needs of children. Add to this increasing demands society places on all to achieve and it’s easy to see how the most important things in life may fall by the wayside.

That said, this will be the first in a series of posts based on Maslow’s Hierarchy, which is just as valid today as when first theorized. I hope you will add ideas and real world examples as levels are published. Children are our future and the most important adult task we have is to make sure children are nurtured substantively to encourage life-long learning that leads to meaningful lives worth living. Until tomorrow…

Up and the Hierarchy of Needs/tiffanyx93’s channel
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Tending Gardens and Call for Teaching Memories

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

It doesn’t matter how long we have taught – there will always be moments that stay with us forever. Below is one of the moments that has stayed with me.


1990's 23

I wanted to scream! They were tugging at me all day. “Ms. Ellington, Ms. Ellington!” is all I could hear them say. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t mind the tugging although it could be tedious at times. I just wished at some point some of the children would learn to raise their hand to get my attention. I know, I know… it’s hard for five-year olds to remember, especially when they need something. Besides, kindergarten children are like a “garden of flowers” and we all know flowers need tending.

Young children live in a world of ego. On this particular day, ego had overtaken our classroom and was increasingly trying. Riley soiled his pants. Jenny fell and scraped her knee. Kevin’s mom and dad argued while driving him to school – leaving him crying for home all morning. So many things to tend to and I still had to teach at some point.

To make matters worse, the art activity I planned for the children was harder than I thought. So there I was, running from child to child trying to help each complete their project. There they were, twenty little budding flowers all in need of nurturing at the same time.

As I frantically tried to attend to everyone, my thoughts flashed back to a Swedish friend named Heli who worked at a restaurant I sang at in my “singing” days. Heli was always smiling and pleasing everyone. One night patrons and coworkers were running her ragged. She looked at me and in her stealthy Swedish accent said, “If I hear my name one more time, I’m going to hit the ceiling!”

My thoughts of Heli were broken when Katey and Brittany at once yanked at my sleeve. “Ms. Ellington, Ms. Ellington!” they shouted. Hmm… Again I thought of Heli and looked at their faces. With hands on hips and one raised eyebrow I said, “If I hear Ms. Ellington one more time I’m going to hit the ceiling!”

The room fell silent and I could see some of my little ones, mouths open in awe, slump in their chairs like wilted flowers in need of a drink. It was an awkward moment, eyes meeting eyes and nothing to say. For that moment, the weight of my day subsided and I was able to catch my breath though regrettably, it now seemed hard for the children to catch theirs.

Then, as if in slow motion from the back of the room, Joanna tip-toed quietly to me. She approached, face aglow. In front of me, she deliberately placed her hands on her hips, raised one eyebrow, and with a missing front toothed grin said, “Oh, Ms. Ellington!”

We all burst into laughter and the moment of peace I thought I experienced gave way to a renewed sense of enthusiasm at being with these lively children.

These days, when I am caught up in classroom stress, I still see Joanna standing before me with that missing front toothed grin.


This is a good time to reflect on positive teaching memories.  I look forward to hearing about yours!  Thanks in advance for leaving a reply and sharing!

 

Learning Disabilities – a second look

I’ve taught for many years in a system that I have often questioned when it comes to students and learning disabilities.  As an outside-of-the-box thinker, I’ve always hoped for more freedom in teaching to reduce the necessity for a child being labeled as learning disabled when I thought there might be a better way.

In my opinion, schools need to offer a more “balanced” curricula including both visual and performing arts as well as extended opportunity for inquiry and exploration. If offered, I believe we would have a much smaller ESE population.  Walk into any ESE class and you will find talented students in these areas.  If not, you’ll find students who lack focus because their minds are sparked with imagination and their personalities are bursting at the seams from the skill and drill activities they take part in.

Google search famous people with learning disabilities and you’ll find less than average students who had the tenacity and intrinsic abilities (not valued by education) to prove their teachers wrong.  I share a list and a YouTube presentation.  Both are inspiring and encouraging.

Famous people with learning disabilities:

ADD/ADHD

Will Smith, Jim Carey, Tom Cruise, Sylvester Stallone, Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, Michael Jordan, Bruce Jenner, Magic Johnson, Terry Bradshaw, Babe Ruth, Greg Louganis, Vince Lombardi, Pablo Picasso, Ansel Adams, Vincent Van Gogh, Salvador Dali, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Leo Tolstoy, Robert Frost, and Edgar Allen Poe, Bill Gates, Ted Turner, Malcolm Forbes, Andrew Carnegie, William Randolph Hearst, Henry Ford, FW Woolworth, Walt Disney, Steven Spielberg, Alfred HitchcockHenry Ford, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Orville Wright, Wilbur Wright, Alexander Graham Bell, John Lennon, Elvis Presley, Cher, Buddy Rich, Beethoven, Mozart, Handel, President John F. Kennedy, President Thomas Jefferson, President Abraham Lincoln, President Dwight Eisenhower, President George Bush, and President George W. Bush, Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Nicolai Tesla, Louis Pasteur, Galileo, and Sir Isaac Newton…

The list goes on.  What were some of them told and what did they share?

Sydney Smith said, “The real object of education is to give children resources that will endure as long as life endures; habits that time will ameliorate, not destroy; occupation that will render sickness tolerable, solitude pleasant, age venerable, life more dignified and useful, and death less terrible.”

Reading, writing, and math are all important but there has to be more if we are to help our students actualize the above realities.

If you’re still with me – thanks for reading and listening!!  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this…

What about the child?

In 1918, a special commission of the National Education Association presented a set of goals on the “purposes of school”.  The list included:

  • providing the child with a sense of ethics
  • teaching the child responsibility for his/her own health
  • teaching the child sensitivity toward the responsibilities of citizenship
  • mastery of the three “R’s”
  • teaching the child to use leisure time well
  • encouraging worthy human relationships with family and friends
  • teaching the child to make a living

We have come to teach a new generation of students and the goals these days seem to focus on teacher quality and offering great schools for students to learn in. While the Common Core Standards stress highest student achievement for all I have to wonder – wouldn’t the goals presented in 1918 be practical for our students today and if so – why are we not paying more attention to them?

Thoughts anyone?

The greatest teacher gift

ajaylaToday was the last day of school for my kindergarten students.  One child came up and said she had a gift for me, but forgot it. I told her she had already given me a wonderful gift.  Then I thought of Ajayla…

There is a saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”  Sometimes, teachers come in small packages…

 “Open mine, open mine!” they shouted.  The children sat on the floor in front of me – eyes wide, waiting for me to open the gifts they had brought their teacher.  Most children in this very special group of first graders beamed with pride, but I had mixed emotions because some not able to share a gift might be hurt.

There were many gifts this last day of school.  From a multicolored spray of wild flowers in a crystal vase to several teacher books.

 Amid their excitement, giggles, applause, and me thanking the children, one of them anxiously called out.

“Ms. Ellington!” Ajayla said, eyes twinkling with her effervescent smile.

 “I have a gift for you!”

 “You do?” I asked.

“Yes, it’s in my backpack.  Would you like me to get it for you?”  she asked.

“Of course!”  I nodded. Ajayla, for the young age of seven was an old soul, wise beyond her years.  The children looked at each other curiously, some watching her every move as she enthusiastically raced to her backpack for the gift.

Ajayla returned with tightly cupped hands and a radiant look on her face.  She stood before me, her back to the others. A few children leaned to see around her, and then all sat motionless – curious to see what the gift would be.

“Close your eyes and hold out your hands,” she whispered in my ear.  I smiled as the colorful beads, perfectly placed in her braided hair tickled my cheek.

The children giggled.  I closed my eyes and held out my hands.  I waited.

“Can you feel it?”  she asked.

I felt nothing.  Eyes still closed, I moved my hands slightly forward straining to feel.  I shook my head.  “I don’t feel…” I began to say.  Then suddenly, I felt the gentle brush of her warm fingertips resting on mine.

“Do you feel it now?” she whispered.  A rush of emotion went through me.

“Yes, Ajayla, I feel it!”  I said.

I opened my eyes and looked at her.  She was glowing. Her fingers now clutching mine. “It’s a wonderful gift!” I exclaimed.  Ajayla leapt forward and wrapped her arms around me.  It was clear the other children understood.  They broke into a round of applause.

“I’ll never forget you,” she said.  “I’ll love you forever and wherever I go you
will always be here in my heart.”

I held her close.  As I did, the others began to surround us, each reaching to be part of our embrace.

“Boys and girls,” I said, “Ajayla has given us all the greatest gift today. Giving and receiving gifts is wonderful, but the greatest gift you can ever give or receive is not one you can see or touch.”  I paused to hold back my tears.  “You can feel it though.”

The children smiled.

“Where?” I asked.

“In your heart.” was their reply.

Meanwhile these three remain:

faith, hope and love;

and the greatest of these is love.

 Corinthians, 13; 4-7 

Why teachers teach

!cid_3172757604_646320   I recently read an article written by a college student who is reconsidering her decision to become a teacher.  While her heart seems to be in teaching, those around her are persuading her to pursue a more prestigious, higher salaried career.  In other words – a “real profession” that is worthy of the cost of a college degree.

The question then arises – why do teachers teach?  It certainly can’t be for the salary.  Teachers are underpaid and overworked.  It can’t be for respect.  Teachers are often falsely charged as being the “problem” with education.  It can’t be for the prestigious working conditions.  Many teachers work in anything but.  Why then do we see teachers endure these conditions year after year not closing the door on education to pursue a more self-satisfying, lucrative career?  The answer must lie in the altruistic nature of teaching and the strong sense of duty most teachers cite as the reason for choosing a teaching career.

According to the National Education Association the average 2011-2012 starting teacher salary in the United States was $35,672.  Factoring into this salary the state of the economy, the increasing cost of shelter, utilities, food, insurance, and yes – taxes, this amount of money doesn’t support a lavish lifestyle or even a modest lifestyle.

Do teachers deserve more respect?  While teachers bear the brunt of accusations on what’s wrong with education, few outside of education stop to question why most teachers teach a specific way.  With the terms and conditions of No Child Left Behind came a landslide of do’s and don’ts over the years eliminating any autonomy a teacher may have in the classroom.

Working conditions?  Consider a career which pays on average for 37.5 hours of work, but commands on average 50-60 hours plus each week to get the job done.   Add to that career – purchasing books and materials out-of-pocket for students unable to afford them, classroom maintenance, professional development, teacher disrespect, constantly changing expectations, added demands, student behavioral concerns, etc., and answer this – would you teach?

While you may say “no” there are many teachers who would still say “yes.”  When I ask my college students why they chose education, the same answer is given every time – “I want to make a difference.”  Indeed, there are many teachers who have done just that.  This altruistic sense of service to others is best expressed with the story of David Menasche who does not consider his declining health but instead asks “Did I make a difference?”

David Menasche: Did I make a difference?

http://www.nea.org/home/2011-2012-average-starting-teacher-salary.html